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Jüri Ratas: I have no interest in running in the European elections

Jüri Ratas in the ETV studios.
Jüri Ratas in the ETV studios. Source: ERR

Jüri Ratas says he has no interest in running in this summer's European Parliament elections, even though the opportunity to do so had been presented to him.

Ratas recently quit the Center Party for Isamaa. He had said some weeks ago that he would not run on the same party list as Jana Toom, formerly Yana Toom, Center's current MEP.

"I have a very strong chance to run for the European Parliament. However, I am absolutely not interested in doing so. This position does not confer on me any advantage," Ratas told ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday.

"This position will be decided by the voters on election evening," he added.

Isamaa's current MEP, elected in 2019 after Estonia was the beneficiary of one of the European Parliament seats distributed post-Brexit, is Riho Terras, a former defense forces chief.

Ratas said that Terras had performed his task well, making him a serious contender for re-election this year.

As much as he wants to be active in politics in the future, he is ready to help Isamaa with his knowledge and experience, rather than running in June, Ratas added.

At home, Ratas also told "Esimene stuudio" that a motion of no confidence in Kaja Kallas as prime minsiter should go ahead at the Rigiikogu, despite Tuesday's news that a deal had been struck with the main teaching union which spelled the end of the recent teachers' strike.

When he was making his decision about which party to join, Ratas said that he could not have imagined Reform finding a place for him, mainly due to opposition to the Center Party, the very party he has just left.

Change is still in the air with Reform in any case, Ratas said, adding that the party leader, and by extension the prime minister, will be replaced this coming spring.

That replacement will likely be "a member of the government who works diligently in the field of environment and climate," Ratas said, an oblique reference to Climate Minister Kristen Michal.

This was "no big secret," Ratas added.

As for his own ambitions, Ratas denied he would want to become Isamaa chair at any point, referring to current leader Urmas Reinsalu as "strong" and "a highly worthy candidate for the post of prime minister, as demonstrated by Isamaa's support ratings."

"I have filled out the [Isamaa] application form, I hope that they will discuss it in the near future," he went on – though Monday's press conference with Reinsalu welcoming Ratas to the party means that this application is a formality.

Ultimately, while he had spoken to other parties ahead of leaving Center, Isamaa was the one closest to his heart.

"This decision was from the heart, sales pitch or not. If you've been in one party for 23 years, you don't buy a person via a sales pitch," he added.

As for his former party, Ratas said that time would tell whether it becomes increasingly marginalized and confined to two or three municipalities (though one of these would be Tallinn – ed.) adding that while the current trends don't look bright for Center, politics is a fickle business.

He himself had no more faith in the party's direction and platform, noting that it has fallen from 16 Riigikogu seats to six since the March 2023 election (at which it had already lost half-a-dozen seats – ed.).

He also said he was glad to have joined another party, and that "you won't get very far as an independent."

While his departure, Ratas said, leaves Center less strong in the capital, where it rules in coalition with the Social Democrats (SDE), the keys to that kingdom lie with SDE's Tallinn boss, Jevgeni Ossinovski, and to a certain extent with party leader Lauri Läänemets.

The two parties, while they hold 40 seats at the 79-seat chamber, have plenty of differences of opinion, including on the transition to Estonian-only education, Ratas said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming.

Source: 'Esimene stuuio,' interviewer Priit Kuusk.

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