Kersna: Reform Party could elect Kallas as chair for final time

Liina Kersna.
Liina Kersna. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Liina Kersna, the Reform Party's deputy Riigikogu whip, expects less confusion and clearer governance from the party leadership elected on Saturday. In an interview with ERR radio, Kersna said that if Kaja Kallas has set her sights on heading an international institution, she will probably be elected party leader for the last time.

Why don't you run for the Reform Party leadership?

I have been trying to continue my doctoral studies at the Institute of Education at the University of Tartu, alongside my busy work as a member of the Riigikogu. I have received permission from the Research Ethics Committee, and I am currently negotiating with the schools where I want to conduct my research. So, all of my free time is currently dedicated to research, apart from my work in the Riigikogu.

How likely is it that the new party board will also decide on a new candidate for prime minister? Did you consider such a possibility in your interview on (ETV show) "Aktuaalne kaamera" last Thursday?

Given yesterday's news, when Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced publicly for the first time her ambition to run for the post of NATO Secretary General, such a development is very likely in the future.

How much support do you foresee for Kaja Kallas as the only candidate for the leadership?

I would be prepared for an overwhelming victory for Kaja.

Kaja's popularity in society as a whole has fallen sharply in public opinion polls, but it remains strong among party supporters. It may be assumed that is also the case among party members. In the election of the party's executive board members, the 13 votes are divided among more than 30 candidates, with Kaja Kallas the only candidate for the chairmanship.

It is unlikely that any of the board members will get more votes than the chair. But if that does happen, it will certainly send a clear message.

You also said in your interview with "Aktuaalne kaamera" last Thursday, that Reform Party members will give their verdict on how the Reform Party has been led so far and whether they expect change during the leadership elections. How exactly can they indicate this?

One option, of course, is not to choose, or to elect more newcomers to the board. If you want change, then you have to change. Continuing in the same way will not bring about change.

And it is up to the newly mandated board to discuss whether change is needed and, if so, how.

What result from Saturday's general assembly do you think would show that Reform Party members want a change of leader?

Certainly two things are significant: how many of those who took part in the elections did not elect a chair, and how many new members are elected to the leadership.

What do you personally expect from the new leadership?

I am looking forward to the reasons for doing things to be more clearly communicated.

For example, sound public finances cannot be an end in itself. That is still a means to an end. Nowadays, there is too much confusion and a lack of confidence in the governance of the country as a result.

Are these elections likely to be the last time that Kaja Kallas is elected as leader of the Reform Party?

If Kaja Kallas' focus is to become the head of an international institution, it is very likely that she will. Her clear confirmation of her desire to run for the post of NATO Secretary General could also be seen as the start of her international campaign.

Is it right (for Kallas) to campaign (for the NATO role) on the sidelines of being Prime Minister? There are different examples from around the world. There have been resignations from the office of head of government, there have been [people who have taken] unpaid leave, but there have also been campaigns run while still in office. It is important to avoid conflicts of interest.

Is Kaja Kallas likely to run for the European Parliament and does she see her career continuing there?

Estonia's international reputation is very good - we are a strong e-government, we have already fulfilled our promise to NATO to invest two percent of GDP in defense spending since Andrus Ansip was prime minister, and today we are investing over three percent. Our national debt is low, our children are top in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests, both in Europe and the world. As Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas has made little Estonia even more visible in the world. She has the wind in her sails in international relations.

Time will tell where this will take her. In any case, it is clearly a victory for Estonia to have our representative at the head of an influential international organization. Whether Kaja Kallas will run for the European Parliament is impossible for me to say.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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