Mega moves mulled

Tuuli Koch
, reporter
Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: Tairo Lutter / Postimees

Come Riigikogu elections next spring, Jüri Ratas is likely to run in Reform Party shirt.

It’s parliament back-to-work time. The next pre-elections cycle will be kicked into gear, to be dominated by the budget, the security, the cohabitation act, and the possible repositioning of personas.

A most exciting scenario is lurking in ranks of Reformers: with Andrus Ansip the MEP maybe morphing into an EU commissioner, Estonia’s current foreign minister Urmas Paet would occupy his then vacant seat in the European Parliament.  

The move, long mulled, would be far from all. The new foreign minister, they say, would be Keit Pentus-Rosimannus – now minister of the environment. So her seat is emptied out as well.

Into the Reform Party placement-game, a figure is entering from topmost ranks of another team altogether: louder and louder the grapevine is saying that Jüri Ratas (Centre Party), Vice-President of the Riigikogu, is running for his next stint at the parliament as a squirrel.

According to Reform Party’s Tallinn region chief and parliamentary faction chairman Kristen Michal, he hasn’t had a talk about it with Mr Ratas – but perhaps he now should.

«Jüri Ratas is a hardworking young man with a good reputation. For him and the younger generation of Centre Party people, it is quite complicated obviously to belong to a party which, by its leadership, is being steadily pulled away from Estonia towards United Russia. That, perhaps, is behind the soul searching,» suggested Mr Michal. «I’d be happy to see him working with us.»

Who would be surprised to hear Reform is interested in Mr Ratas... Constantly, the man has shown excellent election results in Tallinn and a glance at 2017 local elections would set him up as a likely candidate for squirrel-mayor of Tallinn.

For a long time now, there’s been the buzz of Mr Ratas and his un-Centre-Party-like warmth of relationship with both parties in the current coalition. The sympathy was on display during spring time TV debates, and is felt in comradely closeness in Toompea corridors.

For Mr Ratas, a boost to move may have been provided by the EU elections this May when Centrist chief Edgar Savisaar gambled on new names and the best party positions are proving elusive as Mihhail Kõlvart made it to the parliament. For quite a while, Mr Ratas has been outside the insider ranks of Mr Savisaar. While Mr Ratas has up to now run for the Riigikogu in Mustamäe and Nõmme electoral districts in Tallinn, Mr Savisaar now sees the very Mr Kõlvart as No 1 over there.

Currently accompanying Estonian basketball team in Spain, as president of the National Association, Mr Ratas said yesterday the party-change talks stand on no solid foundation right now.

«But it is never too wise to predict the future in politics. As long as Centre Party is capable of unifying Estonian and Russian speaking people, there’s no need for a change. If unification is no longer desired, that’s another matter,» he said.

According to Mr Ratas, there are differences within Centre Party when it comes to Ukraine. «That cannot be denied,» he said. «But it is certainly not the right time today to talk about changing the party.»

As the Riigikogu convenes again in the second week of September, the sunny summer will probably be prolonged by a politically hot fall. The Reform/Soc Dem coalition is working rather fine, the people are getting along and the tiny tussles regarding responsibilities unavoidable. A traditional testing stone will be rolled forth with next year’s budget.

Mr Michal conceded the budget talks take top parliamentary priority. «With the budget, there will certainly be arguments around the coalition’s desire to increase income tax free minimum and child benefit, while lowering income tax and unemployment insurance premium,» he noted. «There is no idle time in sight, looks like a rather intense season.»

Definitely, Estonia’s broader security will continue as top priority, along with the debate on increase and possible rearrangements in internal security. In addition to security, the pre-elections talk will centre on Estonian economy, European economy, and salaries. Riigikogu is stirred by the cohabitation act advancements, as well as the lowering of voting age.


One question to Jüri Ratas

How much substance is there to the quite wide-spread talk in political circles of you running in Reform Party ranks in upcoming Riigikogu elections? Or, in other words – how much chance do you see to continue as Centre Party cadre, the party now clearly glancing towards a flag of other colours?

Recently, I turned 14 years when it comes to Centre Party membership. That’s a time long enough with the organisation offering me options to grow and to do work which has been a joy to me and hopefully useful to my fatherland. Thus, I’ve seen the better times and the harder times as well.

Naturally, no party is infallible, and regrettably Centre Party has also made some choices which may be seriously questioned. It is important, however, to learn from mistakes and to discuss the party’s political activities much more seriously with the members.

I am not one to easily leave my party, at a whim. At the same time, it would be short-sighted to totally exclude that. My future in Centre Party is up to its further decisions and developments.