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Mart Kallas: New coalition in Tallinn a virtual impossibility

Mart Kallas.
Mart Kallas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is almost impossible to form a coalition without the Center Party in Tallinn because members of the opposition have a difficult relationship and a one-vote majority would not hold, Tallinn city councilman Mart Kallas (EKRE) tells ERR in an interview.

Where does the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) stand in terms of how Tallinn is run and the condition of the city council?

I think things will remain largely the same in the city council, the coalition of the Center Party and the Social Democrats will stay in place. While there have been efforts to feign excitement, the situation is quite boring. We are not ruling out working with anyone, while many rule out working with us, whereas it remains unclear why. But a new coalition I find to be a virtual impossibility. [SDE's Raimond] Kaljulaid's suggestion that Jüri Ratas' defection might give the opposition a single-vote majority is a moot point. A single vote cannot get anything done in the council.

Why do you think so?

The mix of ideologies has become very complicated. Looking at 2021 local government election platforms, there was quite a bit of common ground between current members of the opposition in terms of how to develop the city. But political ill will and nitpicking surface once you get down to the details. A manifestation of the Reform Party's arrogance and feelings of superiority where they do not even wish to discuss things.

Can you give an example of such details?

The political situation has changed. We still haven't elected the second council vice chair. The post was meant to go to the Reform Party, while [Kristen] Michal then decided to become minister. The political situation changed and we decided not to back Reform.

Our six delegates now seem to be the pointer of balance in terms of whether we can elect the second vice chairman. At the same time, we lost the post of financial affairs committee chair to Isamaa, which they are reluctant to give back. So, there are political games being played. Old agreements have gone out the window and that's that. /.../

Looking at groups in the city council, the Social Democrats, Isamaa, Eesti 200 and EKRE could form a new coalition. Do you see yourself in such a coalition or would you prefer to remain in the opposition?

We would opt for the coalition as it gives you the chance to realize a part of your election promises. But let us say that it is extremely difficult to agree on various details – who gets deputy mayor or city district elder posts, staying off one another's turf, not apologizing for others' mistakes etc. – in a broad-based coalition. For example, I would not want to be responsible for some decisions the Social Democrats would make etc. And I believe the feeling is mutual.

This would put you and Center in the opposition. How strong of a team would you make?

Difficult to say. We get along fine along personal lines, while they maintain strict party discipline. Their leader tells them how they need to be and what they must do. Let us take for example EKRE's initiative to abandon plans for a statue to Mahatma Gandhi in Tallinn, which has nothing to do with the city and on which €130,000 has already been spent. They couldn't even support that and vote down all our bills.

/.../

The key to a power swap really lies with the Social Democrats. Why aren't they pursuing it? Are they satisfied with the status quo?

The way I understand it is that they would lose a lot of positions. They would have to give up deputy mayors and possibly the post of council chair. Reform would definitely be gunning for mayor with its 16 seats.

That whole food chain – the social democrats have gone along with complementing the Center Party food chain. They have settled in and feel they can control at least a part of Center. The latter has its system, as put by [Mayor] Mihhail Kõlvart, and they [SDE] have entered that system, become nice little cogs in it. They are well-integrated and to think they would have to tear it all down, in order to include EKRE and Isamaa – it would get out of hand.

What is EKRE's plan for improving the situation and surviving in the process?

I believe we'll take the advice of the Chinese proverb of sitting on the riverbank and watching the bodies of our enemies float by. We will see whether we'll be offered something and what those offers might be. /.../ Eesti 200 have said they would avoid working with us, Reform and representatives of SDE have said the same. Isamaa is keeping silent.

We have nothing more to add and will not be kissing anyone's ring. We'll just go about our work. I have plenty of things I need to take care of.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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