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Stepping out of her father's shadow greatest challenge facing Kaja Kallas

Siim and Kaja Kallas.
Siim and Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Stepping out of her father's shadow is the greatest challenge facing the Reform Party's new chairwoman, Kaja Kallas, political commentator Ahto Lobjakas said on ERR's Raadio 2 on Sunday.

"Kaja Kallas' greatest challenge in the coming years will certainly be getting out of her father's shadow," Lobjakas said. "Already the image of the self-sufficient Estonia she put at the front of her platform is a bow to her father's work, and that is probably her weakest point altogether."

Siim Kallas is a former minister of foreign affairs, prime minister of Estonia, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud, And Commissioner for Transport. He is one of the giants in Estonia's politics of the 1990s and also one of the Reform Party's founders as well as still its honorary chairman.

His daughter will have to prove herself on two levels, Lobjakas pointed out: for one thing, she would have to rise to the challenge of becoming the actual leader of a currently divided party, and then she had an election to win as the candidate for prime minister of Estonia's largest opposition force.

Discussing the Reform Party's new line-up with Lobjakas was journalist Vilja Kiisler, who opined that currently the father wasn't doing the daughter a favor with his continued and emphatic support of party power broker Kristen Michal.

Michal, considered one of the party's most influential people and one of Estonia's most skilled realpolitikers, has been at the pinnacle of the party's organization for years, but for a number of different reasons never inherited its top job, most recently losing to Hanno Pevkur in the party's first open chairman elections in January 2017.

That Siim Kallas keeps stressing Michal's political prowess is not doing Kaja Kallas any favors, Kiisler said. "That wouldn't be necessary. I think that she is an independent politician in her own right, but Siim Kallas keeps undermining this all the time by praising Michal."

Though Kiisler pointed out that Kaja Kallas' bow to her father's 1990s politics will also work to include that generation: those voters that still remembered the time of Estonia's regaining of its independence, and the difficult decade that followed.

Reform's new chairwoman is trying to give new meaning to the image of an Estonia that can take care of itself, Kiisler said: "One free of EU support payments, an independent and self-sufficient country."

Lobjakas argued against this, pointing out that though a whole generation did indeed remember that time, associations with Siim Kallas out of his time as president of the Bank of Estonia and prime minister were mainly negative. "In that sense, the step is pretty risky," Lobjakas said.

He added that it represented a change of direction, away from the party line so far that concentrated on an initially young and now ageing middle class, and bringing back the scandals of the 1990s wouldn't do much to help Kaja Kallas and the party in the upcoming campaign.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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