EKRE meeting to weigh up Centre coalition talks offer

EKRE chair Mart Helme.
EKRE chair Mart Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) board is to meet late on Monday afternoon to discuss the Centre Party's proposal for coalition talks.

The extra-ordinary board meeting, scheduled at 17.00 EET, according to BNS, follows Monday's announcement that Centre, which had turned down talks with Reform, the largest party in terms of seats won at the 3 March general election, will talk with EKRE instead.

EKRE won 19 seats at the election, which, together with Centre's 26 seats, is still not enough to reach the 51-seat figure needed for a governmental majority, and would require one other party to join it. The obvious third party in such an alliance would be Isamaa which, with 12 seats won at the election, would push the total up to 57 for a coalition along those lines.

Centre looking at both EKRE and Isamaa, latter two may not have talked yet

Centre also opted on Monday to enter into coalition talks with Isamaa, though Centre leading member Jaanus Karilaid told ERR that he did not know if Isamaa and EKRE were talking.

Some commentators have stressed similarities between the latter two parties beyond just their colour schemes, with the argument made that Isamaa was EKRE's ''trojan horse'' at the time of the governmental split on the UN's global migration compact in November 2018 (Isamaa was in the coalition at the time, EKRE, founded in 2012, has never been in office; both parties were opposed to Estonia giving its assignation to the compact).

Both Reform, which has 34 Riigikogu seats, and the 10-seat Social Democratic Party (SDE) have repeatedly stated their opposition to entering into a coalition with EKRE.

Centre rejected Reform's offers of talks, which may have led to a two-party ''super coalition'' of 60 seats, on the grounds of deal-breaking policies, most notably Reform's €500 tax-free monthly threshold, last Friday.

However, coalition talks are still at an embryonic stage, and it may be that Centre is trying to put pressure on Reform to bend on some of its key platform policies with a view to going back to possible negotiations.

On the other hand, a Centre-EKRE-Isamaa lineup would most likely see Mr Ratas staying on as prime minister; if his party were to go into office with Reform, most likely Kaja Kallas would head up the government.

EKRE not dictatorial, says Helme

For his part, EKRE chair Mart Helme told daily Postimees that Centre leader and former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas called him after Monday's Centre meet.

"The situation now is that I have already convened an extraordinary meeting of the party's board and we will start discussing the proposal," Mr Helme said.

"Mr Ratas, unlike the Reform Party, has not drawn any red lines. There can be no red lines before we have decided whether or not we will accept the proposal," he said, adding that EKRE will now follow a logical routine.

"We have 15 members on the board and everyone's opinion needs to be ascertained. This matter needs to be discussed," he continued, adding that it does not mean he sees his role as merely firing a race starter gun.

"As we saw with the Centre Party, meetings and discussions took a long time and no position was adopted in the end," he said.

Mr Helme was also defiant in the face of opposition and unequivocal about the party's democratic nature.

"The media has created a myth of me being an authoritarian leader. I am an authoritative  leader. But things are not done the way the Helmes [both Mr Helme's son, Martin, and his wife, Helle Moonika, are EKRE MPs as well-ed.] say. We have a lot of people and their opinions need to be taken into consideration, otherwise the party will disband," he continued.

At the end of last week, Sven Mikser of SDE, the former foreign minister, noted there were no lines in the sand between his party and Reform which could block potential talks. No other parties than the five listed above were returned to parliament on 3 March.

Centre MEP opposed

Meanwhile Centre MEP and board member Yana Toom has said that she does not see EKRE as a suitable governmental bedfellow.

"I voted against it [ie. Holding talks]. I don't view EKRE as a worthy partner and I believe that neither do my voters. My reaction to this is rather painful," Ms Toom said, adding that she hopes that Centre will return to opening negotiations with the Reform Party.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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