MEP Yana Toom, a member of the Centre Party's board, said it is noteworthy the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) voted in the Riigikogu with the Centre Party, against the draft Estonian-language version of the Reform Party's education bill.
"It was very surprising to me that we got 18 votes against [the bill] from EKRE. It's really very surprising," Toom told ERR on Thursday. "Isamaa did not vote and EKRE was against! And that is a surprise," She added. Only one EKRE member did not vote with Centre against the bill.
A bill by the Reform Party, which sought to give the government the task of making Estonian school education unified and only in Estonian-language, failed Tuesday in the Riigikogu, with 32 votes in favor and 44 against. It was supported only by the Reform Party faction, with a majority of MPs from the Centre Party and the EKRE and three Social Democratic Party (SDE) members voting against. Other members abstained from voting.
Several politicians called the bill, along with the Centre Party, a trap set up by the ruling coalition for Isamaa and EKRE, as their deputies voted in favor of a similar bill during the previous parliamentary term.
Since the coalition formed earlier this year, there has been a lot of talk about how EKRE does not work with the rest of the coalition. EKRE has long been a champion of Estonian-only education, whereas Centre has fought to keep Russian as the language of instruction in schools that want it.
On the question of whether this shows a convergence between the Centre Party and the EKRE, Toom said in her view, it showed EKRE's wish to keep the coalition together.
Toom, who is also a member of the European Parliament, said the Reform Party's bill could also be seen as a disagreement within the party.
"For me, this is very short-sighted. Because when we look at Russian support for the Reform Party, it is understandable why the Reform Party has never come up with any Russian agenda - because support is non-existent," Toom said. "But at some point it was almost 14 percent, which would mean that every party would have to think about this community now. If that thinking had happened - then I see no reason at all to come out with such stupidity in the Riigikogu," she said. "If you want the votes of the Russians, you don't do that. But they did. Still, the funny thing is, they were in power for 17 years, they had two ministers of education in a row. But now they're starting to squirm that we need to shut down. "
"By doing so, they are also losing the little Russian support they still had. And that may be the result of some sort of internal strife," Toom said.
Which language children should be taught in at school is a controversial issue in Estonia, never far from the Riigikogu's agenda. Some parties favour all-Estonian education, while others want to see a mix of Russian and Estonian.
Editor: Helen Wright