Reform to begin coalition talks with Centre Party ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Kaja Kallas addressing reporters following a meeting of the Reform Party board. 6 March 2019.
Kaja Kallas addressing reporters following a meeting of the Reform Party board. 6 March 2019. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The board of the 2019 Riigikogu election-winning Reform Party has decided to begin coalition talks with the Centre Party.

"We will propose launching coalition talks with the Centre Party," Reform chairwoman Kaja Kallas told the press following a meeting of the Reform Party board.

"We have quite a lot in common with both Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE)," she continued. "The problem is first and foremost how they get along with one another. Both claimed that they would join the coalition together with the baggage from the current government, and that is a pre-programmed difficulty."

Whether coalition talks with the Centre Party will result in a deal is difficult to say as of yet, according to the chairwoman. "But as things currently stand, we believe that it would be easier," she added.

Ms Kallas said she submitted the various pluses and minuses of both coalition options to the Reform Party board on Wednesday, and the decision to opt to launch talks with Centre was a unanimous one.

"If the two of us combined represent two thirds of the electorate, this would be the coalition that would most represent [Estonian] voters," she explained. "That is the most important thing. Secondly, governing with two of us would mean a more stable government as well."

Kallas: No bait-and-switch planned

Ms Kallas also confirmed that the Reform Party did not invite the Centre Party to coalition talks with the intention of reversing course and opting to cooperate with Isamaa and the SDE instead.

"In my own experience with talks, if you choose one and it doesn't work out with them, the the other party will drive up their price," she said. "Our goal is to conclude a coalition agreement with the Centre Party."

In response to reporters noting that Reform won the elections in large part due to its opposition to the Centre Party, Ms Kallas admitted that that was indeed the case, but now it is time to discuss problems in big matters.

"We want to move forward at a good clip, and begin coalition talks as soon as today," she said. "But now the Centre Party has to decide. I have spoken with [Centre chairman] Jüri Ratas, and I have understood that his wish is to definitely bring his party into the coalition."

Mikser: Joining Reform possibly not in Centre's interests

Meanwhile, joining Reform in government might not be in the interest of the Centre Party at all.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) commented on Tuesday that the Reform Party's much more pronounced anti-Russian rhetoric could further alienate Centre's base, and may lead to tensions between leading politicians within the party as well.

Centre would also need to concentrate on regrouping for the 2021 local elections not to lose Tallinn as well, the outgoing minister added, though cooperation with the Reform Party on the local level in Tallinn as well is also an option.

He also pointed out that Centre's stint in government made it rather too Western-minded to still be able to mobilise the Russian-speaking electorate.

"Demanding more sanctions against Russia and speaking for NATO, Ratas lost the support of a certain part of Russian-speaking voters," Mr Mikser said.

Editor: Aili Vahtla, Dario Cavegn

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