Kaljulaid: Reform Party had invited me to run for election in their ranks

Kersti Kaljulaid on Vikerraadio.
Kersti Kaljulaid on Vikerraadio. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

In an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Reporteritund" on Thursday, former Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said that not just Eesti 200, but also the Reform Party had invited to run in the Riigikogu elections this spring. According to the former head of state, she and current Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) spoke privately on two different occasions about Estonia possibly backing her candidacy for NATO's top spot, but that ultimately never worked out.

What in Estonian politics has to get even worse before you'll consider going into politics?

I don't believe that there are no good and knowledgeable people in Estonian politics today who would ensure a secure future for Estonia. I'm absolutely positive that there are. But it's also easier for them to do their job if the public helps them with setting a clearer message. The clear issue for me right now is that I feel as though the ship is drifting and is going nowhere.

It came up ahead of the Riigikogu elections this spring that Eesti 200 had invited you to join their ranks, but did the Reform Party invite you to join their ranks as well?

It's true.

I've been told there was another side to that offer.

I think discussions along the lines of "We'd create such and such opportunities if you'd join our party" — such discussions are clearly more within reach for the Reform Party than Parempoolsed or Eesti 200.

What were you offered?

I believe that should be left the way it is here. These discussions did indeed take place. But I'm not gonna start denying that Kaja Kallas and I spoke about it on two different occasions either.

Was it the position of NATO secretary general?

The prime minister can't possibly promise that!

From what I understand, this conversation went that if you were to join the Reform Party, it would then be easier for Estonia? How did it actually go, then?

That was by no means the only point of discussion there, by the way. But if you put it like that, then I wouldn't want to lie about it either — that that's how it went, yes. That we had such a discussion.

Would you have been a worse candidate if you hadn't joined the Reform Party?

That isn't the subject of discussion at all. What the subject of discussion was, was actually the fact that I'd gotten the feeling leaving office, in talking to my colleagues and ministers of some other countries, that perhaps we could run such a campaign. But that campaign didn't materialize.

Did it not materialize because you didn't join the Reform Party?

It could've been that, too. As Kaja Kallas has said, that she doesn't believe that an Estonian could ever get this job. She may have not actually believed that either. But we indeed have a discussion that supporting me is politically dangerous should I not get it and end up entering Estonia's domestic politics after all. If you're going to ask me like that, then I wouldn't want to lie; so it was, yes.

But that wouldn't have increased your chances of getting that position?

You always need to run a proper campaign to get international positions. And I'm seeing some of my former colleagues running such campaigns right now, for example.

But you can't run this campaign without your own country's ministers, foreign ministry, defense ministry — all those people. And at that point, our officials as well as our prime minister obviously didn't have much faith that it could be successful. That's definitely somewhere in the background here as well.

But it wouldn't be worth summing all of that up with the headline "Kersti Kaljulaid not joining Reform costs her NATO's top spot"?

For God's sake, you can't do that. That would be a pretty weird headline; it would give people the impression that we in Estonia here will somehow be deciding the matter. But yes, we had this discussion and this honest idea that you can't speak for your competition... Indeed, this came up in that conversation.

I'm pretty concerned that you're asking this here, because I've actually been very angry that politicians' private conversations tend to get brought up in the press. And that there isn't a single safe office left anymore — not even the prime minister's office — where you could talk about this and have it not get out.

I take it you just didn't find your inner squirrel?

Actually, the thing is that I see no shortage of talent or good players in this party. I very much respect the fact that the Reform Party in Estonia has such a long roster. Their election result demonstrates that voters actually value their track record, i.e. what they've accomplished. And I certainly didn't feel as though I were missing from there.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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