Reform Party deputy chair Jürgen Ligi says that as prime minister and party leader, he would have handled some of the challenges which have faced Reform in recent months differently, though not necessarily better, than reelected leader Kaja Kallas has done.
Talking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK), Ligi, who was returned as party vice-chair at Saturday's Reform Party congress, listed a quicker and clearer distancing from her spouse's business interests as one thing Kallas could have done better.
Controversy arose from late August after reports that Kallas' spouse, businessman Arvo Hallik, held a significant stake in a company providing logistics to a related firm exporting manufactured components to the Russian Federation.
The prime minister had consistently called for all Estonian companies and entrepreneurs doing business with Russia to cease doing so, in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine from February 2022.
Ligi, a former finance minister, said: "I would [as prime minister] have done one or two things differently, and certainly my style is different."
"Nonetheless, I would also have done worse on plenty of things," he added candidly.
"Representative figures have their own requirements. I would never have wanted this role. However in crisis situations, I would have acted differently. Or maybe with regard to this [business] scandal – she could have immediately distanced herself [from it] and condemned the situation, instead of trying to somehow smooth over her husband's actions," Ligi went on.
Ligi also said the prime minister could have chosen her words more carefully in her public explanations as to why teachers' salaries could not be immediately raised.
Kallas, the sole candidate, was returned as party leader at Saturday's congress. Ligi said of this that the fact he received more votes to the position of vice chair than Kallas did to the chairmanship position (in fact just four more, 640 versus Kallas' 636 – ed.) does not mean that he would also be better suited than Kallas to lead either party or government, calling these "not comparable positions."
"The prime minister sees more general dissatisfaction than does a Riigikogu MP," he went on.
"Not everyone wants to be a figurehead and make people happy or angry every morning," he continued – noting that the removal of a prime minister, Kallas may be facing a vote of no-confidence – spells a change in government.
A change in government, in turn, Ligi said: "Spells a new looting of state finances, new tensions between political parties and is in fact particularly burdensome for both the taxpayer and the voter, in both an emotional and material sense."
Ligi also rejected claims that the recent fall in Reform's ratings, from first place to third according to two different polling firms, represented a more permanent slump into any kind of "hole."
"Our party has not fallen into a hole. We have plenty of Riigikogu seats and we have policies which are more justified than those of our critics," he said.
While the current situation was "emotionally very difficult" and dissatisfaction within Estonian society was palpable, Ligi added, this was overblown.
"If you follow the media, the economy keeps declining as prices are only rising, but, actually, stabilization has been occurring."
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming
Source: "Aktuaalne kaamera", inteviewer Astrid Kannel