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Urve Palo resignation reactions: Not an unexpected move

Urve Palo (SDE) with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre)
Urve Palo (SDE) with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Reactions to the resignation yesterday of Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Urve Palo both from the post and from the Social Democratic Party (SDE) have come in from politicians and analysts alike.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas stated that he was not surprised by the resignation, which hit his inbox as a digitally-signed document at around 07.00 on Monday, as they had spoken about its likelihood before the announcement.

''The reasons for her resignation are something Urve needs to ask herself, however,'' Mr. Ratas said, speaking to ERR's Tiina Jaakson yesterday.

According to Estonian law the President of the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) must be formally notified within 30 days, and the new minister will then take their position. Government ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu, which is in recess until September, at the same time, and if need be the ministerial role, which is slated for the SDE as part of the coalition deal, can be temporarily filled by existing Ministers from that party, the Prime Minister said.

Possible replacements

The SDE currently has four ministers in the coalition government, excluding Ms. Palo; Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt would be the most likely candidate to additionally hold the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology role.

''In any case the post won't remain empty for long,'' Mr. Ratas said.

On the other hand, Urve Palo plans to return to the Riigikogu, though not as an SDE MP, through to next spring's general election, in which case current SDE MP Liisa Oviir will have vacate her seat to make way for Palo's return.

Urve Palo's resignation follows internal discord concerning the current leadership; SDE Minister of Culture Indrek Saar had questioned current leader Jevgeni Ossinovski's suitability for leading the party going into the 2019 general election, which drew some fairly choice remarks from Ms. Palo.

Internal strife within the SDE

This points towards a tense situation in the SDE, as highlighted by political analysis website's editor Andreas Kaju.
Speaking on ETV current affairs show Ringvaade Suvel on Monday night, Kaju said it was significant because Ms. Palo is a noteworthy politician who clearly was not happy with what was going on internally in the party and could no longer keep a lid on those principles.

This was particularly the case regarding issues between Ms. Palo and Indrek Saar.

''The situation needs to be played out in public, with one party apologising to the other, otherwise the public can be confused about what is going on in that party,'' Kaju said.

''Clearly the party is not working together as a team, and in a sense Urve Palo resolved the situation by quitting not only her post, but more surprisingly also the party,'' he went on.

Urve Palo a driven politician

''A lot of politicians are simply marking time either in a government post or in the Riigkogu. This was not the case with Urve Palo, however,'' he went on.

''She had been a minister since the coalition was first formed [in November 2016-ed.],'' Kaju continued, stating that this demonstrated not only her strength as a political figure but also her willingness to leverage her portfolio within the government and the party.

At the same time Palo would, Kaju said, be noted for various key events whilst minister, including submitting a bill aimed at supporting municipalities with the construction of publicly-owned rental housing, and being cleared of claims of submitting false information about a 2014 ferry tender by Vainamere Liinid, which was defeated by the state-owned company Port of Tallinn, during her time as Minister of Economic Affairs in Taavi Rõivas' coalition government.

''Urve Palo was clearly in the Ossinovski camp for a long time,'' Kaju continued, ''and going on to criticise Indrek Saar in front of party peers, with the latter not getting any backup from the party leader, just highlights the internal tensions within the party,'' he went on.

''These matters came to a head probably on a different timescale than Ms. Palo had planned on, and it would have been perhaps easier to hammer these things out with the party itself,'' Kaju averred.

How things are likely to continue between now and March 2019

As regards to how things will continue with Ms. Palo wanting to sit in the Riigikogu having quit the SDE, he feels that she will most likely vote with the SDE in parliament in practice, though under no obligation to do so.

Replacing Ms. Palo as a minister won't prove to be too difficult for party leader Ossinovski given how impressed he has been with Riina Sikkut, who was appointed Minister of Health and Labour in May. What is harder, however, is to find someone suitable from amongst the more seasoned politicians, Kaju believes.

But with the general election looming, there may not be time, and a redistribution of ministerial posts between the three coalition parties (Centre, SDE and Isamaa/Res Publica) might be needed, with a possible replacement for Urve Palo being current Minister of Economic Affairs Kadri Simson (Centre), Kaju said.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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