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Ott Kaldma: The Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition's Pyrrhic victory

The Riigikogu's main debating chamber.
The Riigikogu's main debating chamber. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Do members of the Reform Party and its two coalition partners really not understand that the real deception the voters have fallen victim to is not a few missing words in election slogans relating to tax hikes and the like, but that the party by its actions is setting up the table for a victory for the far-right at the next elections, Parempoolsed co-founder Ott Kaldma writes.

If it were possible in Estonia to cast a negative vote in elections, as is possible in, for instance, Latvia, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) would likely not be represented at the Riigikogu at all, as the party is without exception the most unacceptable to the majority of the voting public.

To take the view that if something had been done, thought or said differently in the election campaign starting around a year ago, then many of the votes which went to the Reform Party – and to Eesti 200 or the Social Democrats (SDE) - would have gone to the current opposition instead, is particularly naive, pie-in-the-sky thinking.

I am fairly certain that opposition politicians are just as aware of this, but playing the fool is one aspect of politics, so they can't really be blamed for that.

Granted, the Reform Party could have won maybe 10 fewer seats (Reform won 37 seats at the March 2023 election – ed.) but those votes would have instead gone to Eesti 200, the Social Democrats or Parempoolsed (the first two parties are in coalition with Reform; the latter did not win any seats last March – ed.).

There were no think tanks or the like underpinning the current coalition's resounding electoral victory (the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition held 60 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu even before the recent defections to SDE from Center – ed.), but instead, the fear among that the far-right would come to power again.

The Reform Party certainly made the most skillful use of this clearly perceived societal fear, of the possible return of EKRE to government, and by so doing won a huge victory, but votes given to the liberal coalition would not have gone to the members of the second Jüri Ratas administration (April 2019-January 2021 – ed.) by any means.

In 2019, the current opposition parties Isamaa and Center, paved the way for EKRE to enter office. In this light, then, it seems particularly unsavory that many of the architects and key figures of that coalition at that time have now quit the Center Party, with many of them having joined SDE – in other words, the party that is the farthest from EKRE on the political spectrum, and has nothing in common at all with the far right (Tanel Kiik and Jaak Aab were ministers in the Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition – ed.).

To get to the nub of things. How can it be that the Reform Party, which won the March 2023 election for the reasons mentioned above, together with Eesti 200 and SDE, managed to play down everything in respect of their, to put it mildly, stupid policies and actions?

To mortgage the democratic rule of law in Estonia for the sake of eliminating some putative tax hump? It is precisely in pursuit of this that various taxes and the like have been enacted, and are still being enacted.

However, the existence of this "hump" (referring to bracket creep – ed.) would not have dawned on most people had the issue not been parlayed up in Reform's pre-election campaigning.

I don't deny whatsoever that this "hump" exists and is particularly outdated; it creates much confusion for many, and its elimination is the right thing to do in the longer term, but to seize on it all of a sudden, at a time when there is a war going on in our neighborhood, at a time when the economy is in decline, and all the other issues; aren't there are any more pressing problems that need to be alleviated at this cost of hundreds of millions of euros? And this is but one example.

Since both the issue of tax hikes and many other decisions are incomprehensible to the majority of people and/or have been very poorly justified, anti-democratic forces have consequently been inevitably strengthened, all at a time when liberal democracy is already hanging in the balance, all over the world.

Do Reform Party members and those of the other two coalition parties not understand that the real deception foisted on the voters is not a few missing sentences in pre-election slogans, but that they are with their actions setting up the table for right-wing extremists themselves, at the next election?

The massive election victory for the supporters of liberal democracy, which was in any case the preferred option for those even who voted for the liberal parties that were left out of parliament must represent a major talent.

Unlike to some other parties, not everyone with brains has fled the Reform Party. But what about this paralysis?

I'm not about to advise if, who, when or where someone should step down, or forward, but I would ask the august coalition to cease deceiving those who voted for openness and the democratic rule of law, and cease paving the way for EKRE at the next elections.

It is not at all to be ruled out that these can be the final years, or even months, of the current world order, so let us at least not add wind to the sails of these developments.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kaupo Meiel

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