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SDE leader: Coalition partners' ratings slump may create tension in government

Lauri Läänemets (SDE).
Lauri Läänemets (SDE). Source: ERR

While the continued fall in ratings popularity for the three coalition parties is a concern, it has not yet led to any tensions within the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE administration, the leader of the third of these parties, Lauri Läänemets, says.

Läänemets added that a continued decline may do so, however.

The current coalition entered office in April with 60 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu. Reform has 37 of these seats, Eesti 200 has 14, and SDE holds nine.

"As the leader of SDE, I am naturally a bit worried if Eesti 200 or the Reform Party's ratings drop. This is because it may lead to some kind of reaction whereby they try to boost the rating, but usually these types of actions in turn can create tension in a coalition. However, I can confirm that this has not been felt up to now," Läänemets, who is also interior minister, said Wednesday.

Both Eesti 200 and Reform have seen their ratings fall in the weeks and months since the coalition entered office – SDE's has been more stable.

A major factor has been controversies to have hit both the larger coalition parties; in Eesti 200's case, these concerned embezzlement allegations around donations to an NGO which aids Ukraine, and which was managed by an Eesti 200 MP, as well as conflict of interest claims relating to a Riigikogu environmental committee member, culminating in this week's news that Lauri Hussar will be stepping down as party leader.

For Reform, media reports that the spouse of party leader and prime minister Kaja Kallas had business interests relating to Russia, along with an unpopular proposed car tax, have been the major sticking points.

While these may have impacted upon the ratings in a negative way, the day-to-day running of government has not suffered in the same way, Läänemets says.

"Commenting on the government's activities, I think that no, the prime minister scandal or the confusions to have hit Eesti 200 have at least not affected the government's work," Läänemets said.

The most recent Norstat poll puts Reform in third place (behind opposition parties EKRE and Isamaa) in the ratings on 19 percent, while Eesti 200 ranks sixth (out of the six elected parties) on 6.1 percent, less than half its rating on entering office in the spring.

SDE polled at just under 10 percent.

Läänemets also said he sees the coalition's most important concern at the moment as being filibustering tactics employed at the Riigikogu by the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), ongoing since parliament reconvened in September and which had already been seen prior to the summer recess.

The minister and SDE leader said that his party did not set any red lines on what Eesti 200 should do in searching for a replacement to Lauri Hussar as leader, but added, that there is no reason why the new chair should be drawn from the ranks of its three ministers (one of whom, Education Minister Kristina Kallas, was the party's founding leader in any case – ed.).

That party has a sufficient roster of talent to be able to find someone, not necessarily from the bench of ministers, while there was nothing stopping whoever gets the nod from being made a minister, Läänmets said.

Lauri Hussar will remain Riigikogu speaker, in fact concentrating on this role in the current situation at the legislature was the reason he gave for stepping down as Eesti 200 chair.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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