Centre leader: EKRE talks no walk in the park

Centre leader, and former prime minister, Jüri Ratas.
Centre leader, and former prime minister, Jüri Ratas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Centre Party chair Jüri Ratas has said that coalition talks with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which it announced on Monday, will not prove easy.

Centre, which rejected talks with the Reform Party at the end of last week, is also to engage in talks with Isamaa.

However it is its proposed talks with EKRE which are proving most contentious. The party board met on Monday to vote on whether to meet with EKRE for discussions; 13 were in favour and four were against, including MEP Yana Toom.

"As a result of last week's developments and events, the Centre Party board has decided to propose to EKRE and Isamaa to start talks on forming a possible coalition," Mr Ratas, who was prime minister until the 3 March general election, said on Monday.

Mutual trust a pre-condition

"These talks will definitely not prove easy for any of the parties. There is also no certainty that they will conclude with the formation of a coalition," he continued.

Centre had rejected the Reform party's offer of negotiations, ostensibly because it disagreed with some of Reform's key policy planks, notably its €500 monthly tax-free threshold.

"The party board decided last week, after thorough discussions, that it will not enter into talks with any of the parties if insurmountable red lines are drawn even before negotiations begin," Mr Ratas said. "If a government is to last for four years and is to be based on mutual trust as well as have the ability to make the necessary decisions, it cannot be formed in such a way," he continued.

Mr Ratas also noted that the talks would be entered into in the best faith, in line with constitutional values, the well being of the nation and its future generations, and taking on board the differences between Centre, EKRE and Isamaa.

Consensus key

"If this coalition should be born, in terms of election results, it will have the support of the majority of the society," he noted. A Centre-EKRE-Isamaa coalition would comprise a total of 57 seats. A Centre-Reform coalition would have 60 seats.

"During talks to be held over the course of the next weeks, and perhaps months, the most important things are mutual respect, a desire to find solutions and, first and foremost, adherence to the interest of the state of Estonia and its people. The Centre Party is not under any illusions that the discussions to be held and choices to be made should prove easy. I promise, however, that in the course of all talks, we will stand up for each individual in Estonia, regardless of whether the Centre Party will end up in opposition or in office," Mr Ratas said.

''My experience so far indicates, however, that in order to ensure a positive working environment, the most important thing is to keep looking for a consensus and seeking compromises on issues in which parties hold opposing positions," he continued.

The current deadlock will not necessitate any second Riigikogu election, he added.

"I am working towards preventing that outcome. All five parties elected to the parliament have expressed their wish to have a say in how the state is run. This provides assurance that Estonia will have an active government coalition in the coming months," he said.

Party's deputy chairman Jaanus Karilaid told daily Õhtuleht that votes against the EKRE talks were from city government deputies Raimond Kaljulaid, Mihhail Kõlvart and Vadim Belobrovtsev, in addition to Yana Toom MEP.

EKRE's leader Mart Helme recently stated that his party's aim was a majority, single-party government. He also said on Monday that the party was democratic, not authoritarian, and that it was to meet on Monday afternoon/evening to discuss Centre's overtures.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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