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Prime Minister: No place for enmity and hatred in Estonian politics

Jüri Ratas in the ETV studios Tuesday evening.
Jüri Ratas in the ETV studios Tuesday evening. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said Tuesday evening that it was his hope that enmity and anger would be absent from Estonian politics.

Speaking on ETV current affairs show Esimene stuudio's inaugural broadcast of the new season, Ratas made his remarks in response to a question from presenter Andres Kuusk, who had asked whether the current opposition of Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) had picked the wrong enemy in such a career politician as himself.

"It is my hope that there are no enemies in Estonian politics. That is actually a bad situation. There are competitors – for sure, that must be the case and is understandable," Ratas replied.

Speaking about rifts within his own coalition with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, Ratas said that his main aim was to keep both executive and state in unity.

A split in the government arose in late August, when by turns, finance minister Martin Helme, and interior minister Mart Helme (both EKRE) unilaterally tried to remove police chief Elmar Vaher, claiming the latter had misled his staff on the issue of possible redundancies.

Removing a high-level official would normally be a matter for the entire government.

The episode was one of several controversies which have involved EKRE since the latter entered into office. An indirect war of words between President Kersti Kaljulaid and the party's ministers, on the issue of press freedoms is one example; the stated unwillingness of EKRE's IT and trade minister Kert Kingo to travel abroad, in a role requiring a certain amount of travel, is another.

Unity a cross the prime minister has to bear

"My goal as prime minister is, in fact, just one. We have to keep the coalition working to make decisions, but on the other hand, we need to do everything to protect the rule of law, uphold that in Estonia and, of course, support or rejuvenate the workforce," Ratas said.

"The prime minister is always responsible for what goes on in the government. This is the cross the prime minister has to bear," Ratas said.

After President Kersti Kaljulaid said that Mart Helme had no place in office following the Vaher case, the prime minister did not attend her annual Rose Garden reception, held on restoration of independence day on Aug. 20. When asked about whther this was due to a personal slight he felt following the president's words, Ratas said it was not the case.

"I had a very pleasant Aug. 20 evening with just my family and a couple of close friends," he added.

When asked about whether he regretted entering a coalition with EKRE, which became fact in late April following weeks of negotiations, Ratas noted that while it had not been without its challenges, it was in effect democracy in action.

"This coalition has certainly been very eventful and surprising for certain sections of society. However, I think in addition to all the worldviews and principles, what really matters in Estonian society is that the 'supreme power' (i.e. the electorate-ed.) gets to choose different parties, be it in opposition or coalition. I think that is best for Estonia," Ratas said.

With regard to the Reform Party, which Centre avoided having anything to do with in the coalition negotiations after the March 3 election, despite Reform winning the highest number of seats, Ratas said that while it was difficult to go from opposition into coalition, it was perhaps even harder to move in the reverse direction.

Reform failed to get a vote of no-confidence in Ratas' administration past the Riigikogu. In early June, it had also failed to do same with regard to Mart Helme.

He also held firm to the pre-election Centre promise of an extraordinary pension rise, an issue which has also led to disagreement within the government, principally on whether a rise would be directly linked to the removal of the mandatory status for employee pension contributions.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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