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Party chairs debate: Coalition won't fall, budget dispute will be sharp

"Studio 1" in the Riigikogu. 12 September 2018. Source: Anna-Aurelia Minev/ERR

In a debate aired on ETV's "Studio 1" on Wednesday night, the chairpersons of all six parliamentary parties acknowledged that the current government coalition would last through the next elections, but the opposition promised robust participation in budget talks in the Riigikogu.

Prime Minister and Centre Party chairman Jüri Ratas said that the government will endure and continue working hard through the Riigikogu election next spring. "I believe that," he said.

He did not cite the government coalition's now narrow majority in the Riigikogu as an issue, noting that governments with a minority in the Riigikogu have also gotten by in Estonia in the past.

Social Democratic Party (SDE) chairman Jevgeni Ossinovski said that he likewise wasn't worried about the government coalition folding. "We must continue working so that everyone in Estonia has the opportunity to live in dignity," he said.

Pro Patria chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder admitted that in the current Riigikogu, the opposition has splintered as well, and as a result wouldn't be capable of forming a new government. Regarding the current government's narrow majority, Seeder said that "It is custom for a healthy parliament to talk things through with the opposition."

Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas said that she saw no reason for a motion of no confidence against the prime minister, but noted that the state budget debate in the Riigikogu would be a major test. "Unpaid excise duties and taxes continue to shrink in the state budget," she observed. "These sums could be put toward increasing teachers' pay, for example, and doing a lot of other good. The percentage of envelope wages is on the rise, and the shadow economy is growing as well. Estonians aren't going to burn cars; they're clenching their fists in their pockets."

According to Mart Helme, chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), his party likewise has no interest in taking down the current government. "But you'll see thunder and lightning with the budget," he warned. "You are dependent on independents, and can strike compromises with the opposition."

Free Party chairman Andres Herkel noted that the independent MPs, who do not belong to any party's parliamentary group, most recently voted with the government coalition. Regarding the state budget, Herkel said that lowering the fuel excise duty would have a postive effect on the country. "But it isn't possible to fully fix mistakes made with excise policy," he said. "The economy is also at risk of overheating, and the government is currently in a good distributor position."

The next Riigikogu election is scheduled to take place on 3 March 2019.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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