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Digest: As Reform sidelines its chairman, the party is back at its worst

The Reform Party's internal struggles continue. (Image is illustrative)
The Reform Party's internal struggles continue. (Image is illustrative) Source: Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

A third of Estonians think that the government is doing a lousy job, which would suggest things are going well for the leading opposition party, daily Eesti Päevaleht wrote in its Tuesday editorial. But Reform is once again busy with itself, as Monday's vote on the party's candidate for the position of deputy speaker shows, and this doesn't bode well for next year's elections.

The party's credibility is currently suffering for several reasons, perhaps the most apparent being that its prominent members are settling old scores and running intrigues against one another while in public they are repeating ad nauseam that what the party needs is more teamwork.

The enthusiasm with which the party is leaking the correspondence of its leading figures doesn't contribute to its trustworthiness, Päevaleht wrote. Thanks to one of those leaks, we know that Pevkur asked designated party leader Kaja Kallas (Reform/ALDE) for her support in his attempt to hold on to the position of deputy speaker of the Riigikogu.

In a letter that was promptly made public, Kallas said no, saying that she needs "everyone on board" in the party and its parliamentary group. Following Pevkur's reaction on the same day, Kallas did speak out in favor of Reform Party MP Kalle Laanet, whom the party swiftly selected as Pevkur's replacement on Monday: a nice "authentic overview" of internal struggles in the party, and right from the source, Päevaleht found.

Assuming that Kallas really is above the different wings of the party, this isn't much reason for optimism. Kallas doesn't seem to be able to reconcile the quarreling factions, and if she can't manage to run the party, what does that mean for her prospects as the possible next prime minister?

And the party is split, as it became obvious in the vote on Pevkur vs Laanet in the parliamentary group on Monday. Sudden favorite Laanet got 13, Pevkur got ten of the Reform Party MPs' votes, which suggests a similar divide in the party. And while Pevkur's asking for Kallas' support might not look good, neither does the crusade of some of the party's power brokers against Pevkur, who is now thoroughly sidelined both in the party's leadership as well as in the Riigikogu.

Another tricky detail is that in last year's local elections, only Taavi Rõivas got more votes to his name than Pevkur did. And that was before the former prime minister was accused of sexual harassment, which means that Pevkur may well be the most popular Reform Party politician. That puts him well ahead of e.g. Kristen Michal and Keit Pentus-Rosimannus in terms of voter support, Päevaleht wrote.

The fact that Michal and Pentus-Rosimannus appear to be the ones pulling the strings in this matter is yet another problem for the party. The former is connected to Reform's 2012 financing scandal and plastic bags full of cash changing hands, and the latter tainted because of the Autorollo bankruptcy case and allegations brought against her in connection with it.

The impression that it is these people again who are in control of the party come the 2019 Riigikogu elections will prove a serious issue both for Kaja Kallas as well as the party on the whole, Päevaleht wrote.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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