Councils Approve Coalition Agreement, IRL Names Ministers
The councils of the Reform Party and IRL both endorsed a coalition agreement over the weekend. Parliament will hold its first session on April 4, when it swears in the new government.
IRL will reappoint Ene Ergma as Chairwoman of Parliament - the second most powerful position in government - as Party Chairman Mart Laar takes office as Minister of Defense. "I ran for office, focusing on defense questions, on preserving the constancy of the defense service. Now that I have been called on and asked to take up the position, it became clear that it is essentially impossible to refuse," said Laar.
IRL Secretary General Ken-Marti Vaher will switch out Marko Pomerants as Interior Minister - the largest ministry with 11,000 officials. Juhan Parts will remain as Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications; incumbent Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo will move to head the Ministry of Education and Research; Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder and Regional Minister Siim Valmar Kiisler will remain in their current positions.
The two incumbent ministers to be left out of power were Minister of Education Tõnis Lukas and Interior Minister Marko Pomerants. Vaher, soon to be Minister of the Interior, was asked by an ETV journalist on March 28: "I don't doubt for a moment that deep in your heart you wholly support former Interior Minister Marko Pomerants, and you are undoubtedly convinced that Estonia has never before had a better Interior Minister. But tell what, then, determined his fate? [...] Why wasn't he given a chance to continue?" Vaher did not wish to give details, answering briefly that he would not comment on the personal qualities of certain individuals.
Winning in his district a substantial 9,541 votes during the election (compared to Centre Chairman Edgar Savisaar's 23,000; Reform Chairman Andrus Ansip's 18,967; and Social Dems Chairman Sven Mikser's 7,431), Laar told ETV that it would have been "irresponsible" to stay out of the political arena and instead award his votes to other party members.
But IRL's delay in naming its ministers, and apparent hesitation on Laar's behalf on whether to take up a position in the new government, led speculators, including Social Dems Chairman Sven Mikser, to conclude that IRL was undergoing an inner struggle. "If he doesn't participate [in the government] for the second term in a row, then it shows either a lack of motivation or a lack of power and support within Laar's party," Mikser said last week. "In both cases, he should consider whether to give the formal helm to those who substantively run the party."
The two coalition parties will have the same distribution of minister positions as in the last government. IRL's coalition partner, the Reform Party, revealed its new ministers on March 26. Minister of Justice Rein Lang will be switched out for Reform Secretary General Kristen Michal, and will himself take over as Minister of Culture. Former Culture Minister Laine Jänes is to become Deputy Chairwoman of Parliament, reported ETV. Keit Pentus was given the position of Minister of the Environment, replacing Jaanus Tamkivi, who will become chair of the Reform's faction in Parliament.
Other Reform ministers will remain the same - Andrus Ansip will continue as Prime Minister, Urmas Paet as Foreign Minister, Hanno Pevkur as Social Affairs Minister and Jürgen Ligi as Finance Minister.
Estonia has 11 ministries and 12 ministers. Six ministries are controlled by the Reform Party.