Friday emotions abated, time to move on, says prime minister
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has said that emotions which were running high on Friday have now boiled over and that, whilst the coalition partners will need to make concessions to each other, the three parties, Centre, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa/Pro Patria can move forward and remain in office together.
Controversy surrounding the adoption and nature of the UN Global Compact on Migration had led to a split in the government between the two junior partners, SDE and Isamaa, which seemed intractable, with SDE leader Jevgeni Ossinovski saying his party could not serve with Isamaa, and the latter's justice minister Urmas Reinsalu saying that he was going nowehere. Mr Reinsalu had faced calls for his resignation from Mr Ossinovski; SDE's foreign minister had also been called on to resign, with not only Isamaa piling on the pressure but also Urmas Paet MEP of the opposition Reform Party.
No soup too hot
''In Estonian we have a saying that there is no soup which can be cooked so hot as to make it inedible,'' said Mr Ratas, speaking after a ceremony marking 100 years of Latvian independence on Sunday morning, attended by governmental representatives of all three coalition parties, though Mr Reinsalu and Mr Ossinovski were absent (the latter is not currently a minister).
''I believe Friday's emotions have simmered down and there remains the will to move forward together,'' he continued.
On the question of a minority government continuing without one or other coalition party, Mr Ratas said any lack of clarity would not be healthy.
''It's not good timing coming up to year end. The state budget always takes precedence looking forward to the new year. The move to a minority government would not be sensible and I don't see any of the three coalition parties wanting to be in a minority administration,'' he said.
The annual state budget is currently going through its second reading at the Riigikogu. The larger coalition party, Centre, with 25 seats at present, depends on its two junior partners, SDE (14 seats) and Pro Patria (11) for its survival, so a hard split between the two would render the coalition unworkable.
Opposition Reform has 31 seats and is the largest single party in the Riigikogu. Technically the coalition already is a minority government, since it recently dipped below the 51 (out of 101) seats needed to constitute a majority, but in practise this is balanced out by former members of the coalition parties voting in line with the government. The most notable example of this is former entrepreneurship minister Urve Palo, who left both her post and SDE in late summer but who still votes with her former party.
Government meets on Sunday
''The key question is whether the three sides are willing to move together; I can see that they will, and that they all understand their responsibility. Clearly in the current state of affairs, everyone could do with taking a step back so that a commonality can be found and we can move on again,'' Mr Ratas continued.
The chance to do this doesn't even need to wait until the new week – the coalition partners are due to meet for talks at the Stenbock House, seat of the government, on Sunday afternoon.
The general election is on 3 March 2019.
Editor: Andrew Whyte