Soc dem top «not imagining» deal with Centre Party

Kolmapäeval peeti sotside Toompea pesas mitmeid sünnipäev, üks neist oli erakonna peasekretäri Indrek Saare oma, kes pretendeerib ka tulevase valitsuse ministriks. Eiki Nestor enda sõnul enam ministriks ei soovi.

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits

Inner options of Reform Party do inject tensions into daily life of other parties. Eiki Nestor, vice chairman of the soc dems faction in Riigikogu, tells us to be patient while waiting for fresh power coalition, not keen to criticise a possible partner.

How about inherited offices, in Estonia? As father, perhaps being DJ will be in the blood of your son Siim, but how about EU commissioner post? 

Appointing a commissioner is an issue of debate, how that should be done anyway. In Europe, commissioners are generally appointed by governments; in our (the soc dem – edit) opinion, this could be the parliament’s job here in Estonia. Right now, the hints to the Aliyev family (Azerbaijani political dynasty – edit) and all such talk is a bit overblown. Ain’t that bad, really.

Reform Party was weighing its strengths and weaknesses, which moves would be the most advantageous for them at the moment. Their main goal is election victory at the 2015 parliamentary elections. That’s the goal of every party. 

The advantage of Siim Kallas, before other possible Reform Party tops, is that he can be relatively critical. Saying that that wasn’t the best decision, or that I would have done otherwise. The current direction is logical.

Who’s talking in you – an observer or a future power partner?

(Smiles contentedly.) In my answer, I was an amateur political observer. Reform Party hopes to lift its popularity and I think their hopes may have some substance. I think there’s some logic to what they’re doing.

What is the Reform Party doing?

They are shaping a clear image, to bring back the people who voted for them in 2011 and who have meanwhile disappeared.

They are definitely not going after the segment that has never voted for them. Even themselves, they do not have that hope and expectation.

When did it turn sour, in the government? Was it when, two years ago Prime Minister Andrus Ansip announced he’d not be playing along anymore?

That the No 1 will change, that Mr Ansip would not bring elections success in 2015, was, in my opinion, obvious in 2011 already. Too long in power requires a different player than Mr Ansip; and long-term leaders isn’t an option based on world view, rather a religious sect.

But the government is working and maybe they’ll keep going till next elections, who knows. Their problem’s arrogance; the attitude that what do you simpletons know? That’s what causes anger. And rightfully so.

So they need to make themselves likeable again?

Eerik-Niiles Kross came around, rode on drones, and immediately the voters forgot the home-expenses-reduction promises. Not blaming the voter here – that’s just the way it is.

In his New Year’s Eve interview to Postimees, the actor Lembit Ulfsak said regarding the power coalition that boys, you’ve done well but you are repulsive. How does one become repulsive?

Yes, I do remember the sentence, it captures it so expressively. One becomes repulsive when, using right-wing economic terminology, when the start-up capital that granted the power runs out.  

Mr Ulfsak also said we should actually be thankful to the government, but the word just gets stuck in our mouths. Should we still spit the word out?

I still think not. The things that could have been done otherwise are so many. Oh ...

Let me bring, as an example, the reason why the government we belonged to split [in 2009]. We may also say the soc dems were intentionally driven out, as they were setting stuff in front of us they knew we would not agree to ...

... they also say that Mr Nestor was so stubborn that he split the government.

... yes, they do. But they did also know this was the place we would not compromise. As they amended labour laws and made them more flexible, on the one hand, then – on the other hand – they ought to have made the situation more secure also. Due to that, thousands of people were left without the option to make a decent income on unemployment insurance, allowing them to seek for a new job at home, to seek a new occupation.

What was a person supposed to do? An option was, indeed, to board a ship and find a place elsewhere. Makes no sense to wonder today why so many are leaving. The grand ideological difference we have with the right wing parties is the very issue that they saw helping the job-losers as an expense; we saw it as an investment.

In a little more than a week, coalition talks will start. What will you not be giving up?

Let’s see if they will start.

Sure they will.

Yes, prime minister will change, that’s for sure, and the government will step down. There aren’t many surprises wherewith we would deem it possible to enter the government at all.

If child benefits don’t rise, we will not go into this government. Nothing doing. This is a clear principle, and there’s other stuff.

In run-up to elections, all want into the government, doing a deal with the devil if needed.

For every party, the ideal is to get 51 votes at the Riigikogu and be in power alone.

Really? That’s what Edgar Savisaar is criticised for!

Sole power may be every party’s dream; even so, life in Estonia reveals that the state is indeed better governed with a broad based government – the decisions will be more balanced. It is more difficult to reach compromises, but I am very glad that Estonia has had coalition governments. Luckily, no one in Estonia really stands the chance to achieve full majority, in parliament.

How are compromises reached? You’ve been at many governments created and split ...

I’ve seen clashes, splits. I have said, no, we’re not backing off here. Splits are easier. Then there’s the clear desire to let it come apart. To find a spot with the partner where you know he will never back away – that’s not difficult at all.

Seeking to split, then ...

... then it happens fast, no doubt at all. To reach an agreement, however, that’s more complex.

There’s a substantial difference if plans are being made for four years or for a shorter time. With the shorter periods, you must consider that you can’t give far-reaching promises, ones you cannot keep.

To form a government now, for a year, is complex?

More complex, yes.

After the 2015 elections, it’s... maybe not easier, to form a coalition, but more constructive. You can seek for more long-term compromises.

But, seeking for compromises starts by acknowledging the limits where the partners cannot afford to back down. Then, the limits are set where compromises are possible, and the points of agreement are found – this, always, is the most fun. And then there are the parts where you are forced to consider the partner.

No-one goes to the government just to be there, but to pursue their policy. What will happen now ... Hard to predict.

Rather, all will happen fast.

Yep, I guess so. Again assuming the amateur political scientist role – a fast deal is logical, as then the voters might get to know the new coalition before the elections, the changed image might be introduced to voters. 

When governments split, how does one feel it? Somebody gets fidgety?

Well I don’t know ... There’s been the peaceful splits, there’s been the noisy ones.

When was it the bloodiest? The passionate three-party-union split?

Yes, that was passionate. The government shift in 2002, basically before elections again, happened in a way that, for the other two parties, came as a big surprise (Reform Party, back then, gave up cooperation with Pro Patria Union and the Moderates, forerunner of soc dems, and formed a governing coalition with Centre Party – edit).

That coalition could also have been terminated in a manner more cultured. Coalitions, as a rule, do well when their popularity rises or falls.

If one rises, that’s bad? Like now – IRL popularity not fitting for the partner?

Yes, imbalance does make coalition life more complicated. The same situation, now.

Behind my back, at Riigikogu, sometimes the ministers sit who don’t bother to get into the government loge; I had the current defence minister there, and at a certain moment I told him, after another popularity poll showed their support was rising, I said: that’s nothing, wait and see what happens as you pass Reform Party by.

(Mr Nestor get a phone call. He’s asked to come do a disco, Saturday night.

«Still doing the DJ job? Why?»

«On some rare occasions, yes. In a funny way, the ob is a lot like politicians: I can’t play music that for me is totally unacceptable, but I will have to play music that the people wish for, seek for compromises.»

«What would you play to Andrus Ansip, on his leave-the government eve?»

«I wouldn’t play to him at all.»)

How realistic is a soc dems and Reform Party union, anyway? Following the 2015 elections, it is rather an IRL and soc dems government that is being expected. Easier with IRL, say?

Yes, not excluded at all. (Perplexed.) Well we do know one other. Know where it’s easier to agree, and where it’s harder.

I think in economic, tax and social policy it’s easier to agree with IRL. Meanwhile, talking about human rights, freedoms, state administration, it would surely be easier to reach agreement with Reform Party.

I must say I can’t imagine what we could agree about with Centre Party, as the work that they do in Riigikogu, and what they do when in power, are so different.

Meaning that, today, we do not then need to tell the left turn horror stories – soc dems not turning to Centre Party first? 

First, we still turn to ourselves. At the moment, actually, all parties are in a draw. All have equal support, an all desire to win the elections, I’ll bet. And, leading up to that, the EU elections in May are a very important stage.

Even before the EU elections, at the beginning of spring, there will also be the Board of the Riigikogu elections. Will Mr Nestor be speaker? 

I have run a couple of times, yes. We’ve had a basic decision – we want to vote for someone.

There need not be just one candidate to lead the Riigikogu. It’s normal that Riigikogu speaker’s base of support is broader than coalition votes alone. It won’t hurt me if I come second, at the elections.

What happens now – we always decide that on the week of the elections. What’s important is what is going to happen in Estonian politics. When prime minister is changed, when that happens before Board of the Riigikogu elections, then it depends on where the negotiations are at.

Negotiations underway?

No, I’m sure the negotiations will begin after Mr Ansip’s statement.

Mr Kallas a nice moustached chap, good choice for Estonia at the moment?

You’re leading me on very thin ice ... I don’t need to select anyone else’s chairman. I can be surprised at these selections, I can understand them, at times they may come across as funny to me, even make me gloat.

But, the current choices and trends, I do understand them. There’s no gloating, no fun either, no cynical political thoughts in my head; rather, I do understand why certain things are going on.