Centre Party to give identical message in Russian and Estonian says PM

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas during an interview with ERR's Toomas Sildam.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas during an interview with ERR's Toomas Sildam. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has stressed the equal measure given to both Estonian and Russian languages in accurately communicating the same government message to the Estonian populace in either language.

Speaking at the regular governmental press conference at the Stenbock House, the seat of the Estonian Government, on Thursday, Mr. Ratas said that: "The messages to be given will be the same, and if not, responsibility for that will be borne."

Mr. Ratas was probably making an oblique reference to the case of former Minister of Public Administration Mihhail Korb, who was forced to resign in May 2017 following revelations that he had questioned the necessity of NATO when speaking before a Russian-speaking audience in the western Estonian town of Haapsalu (Estonia has been a NATO member since 2004).

Ratas reemphasised that Centre will be sending out an identical message during the run-up to the 2019 elections just as it has been sending out the same "during the one year and ten months in government.''

Jüri Ratas became Prime Minister after agreeing to coalition terms with the Social Democratic (SDE) and Pro Patria (formerly IRL) parties in November 2016, after the latter two parties had won a vote of no confidence in the government of former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform).

Mr. Ratas added that he doesn't wish to see people divided into "castes" in the pre-election struggle, based on their native tongue.

Recent example of potential divergent message

A very recent example of accusations that Centre relay different political messages to Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking audiences comes from just last weekend.

Yana Toom MEP, member of the Centre Party board, stated on a Russian TV talk show that she saw the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union in 1940 as comparable with the various 'colour revolutions' in the 1990s and 2000s in countries like Ukraine and Georgia. Mr. Ratas rejected the comparison.

The Centre Party draws a large part of its support from the Russian-speaking populace in Estonia, centred on Tallinn and Ida-Viru county. Any Estonian citizen is eligible to vote in the country's general elections regardless of their native tongue.

It has recently experienced a split in the Narva branch of the party following corruption allegations, with a couple of dozen or more party members defecting to a new political grouping calling itself 'Meie Kodu Narva' ('Our Home Narva') and a sitting MP, Olga Ivanova, quitting.

SDE and the Free Party have also being experiencing splits and calls for new leadership.

The next parliamentary elections are to be held on 3 March 2019.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS

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