Words by minister trigger political scandal

Peaministrit asendav Keit Pentus-Rosimannus ulatas eilsel valitsuse pressikonverentsil Jürgen Ligile oma nutitelefoni – nii võis rahandusminister kiiresti kommenteerida ka seda, et koalitsioonipartneri sotsiaaldemokraatide juht Sven Mikser soovitas tal tagasi astuda.

PHOTO: Erik Prozes

Ironic haughtiness by finance minister Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) begun to pour forth on Wednesday while answering questions before Riigikogu related to next year budget. In the evening, he was on TV show «Foorum» and afterwards wrote in Facebook it was a waste of time – the show filled with alien obsessions and nothing else.

To the post by Mr Ligi, a follower noted that the soc dem Jevgeni Ossinovski’s remarks in the show were balanced.  

«Ossinovski’s «balance» is nothing but rootlessness and ignorance,» the minister replied early yesterday morning. «The man thinks that history begun with him and in all topics he follows the selfsame ugly cliché about the former govt [being] this and that, and now he has home. Totally mixing up [historic] patterns and guilt of the state. This time, in the context of links between emigration and historic heritage. This very ignorance in the issue we began with is the main stimulus for the youth to leave. A minister should say it pays to be patient and try hard, we are doing ever better (not so with Finland, you see); he says Soviet rule is not to be blamed, he will fix it. An immigrant’s son from a pink [political] party, he ought to be top cautious, but he’s oblivious to [even] take a look,» the finance minister continued in his comment leading to a political scandal.

«After a statement like this, I for one could not consider it possible to continue as a member of government working in the name of all people in Estonia. But well it must be a matter of each person’s conscience,» commented Mr Ossinovski, adding that for him it is no surprise that instead of a discussion with content, Mr Ligi prefers to attack people.

«The fact that the political arsenal of vice chairman of a «liberal» party now includes the basics of ethnic-cultural labelling is something new,» said Mr Ossinovski.

With this, Mr Ossinovski’s comrade-in-party and defence minister Sven Mikser agrees. «In spring already, they say, Siim Kallas intended to replace Mr Ligi as finance minister. Taavi Rõivas, unexpectedly becoming prime minister, could not have afforded a move like that.  Now that the prime minister is somewhat acclimatised, he might be ready for the step,» he said.

Mr Mikser said that when a man throws around insults towards women and minorities and thinks he is above such things just by being a past-middle age Estonian man, the question arises if indeed he is fit for an office requiring thoroughly weighed and responsible decisions.

«I don’t think it possible for Mr Ligi to continue in his office after a statement like this. The statement damaged everything that we are building in the interests of inner peace and security of Estonian society,» observed IRL chairman Urmas Reinsalu currently in opposition.

As assured by Kadri Simson, Central Party faction head at Riigikogu, they will launch collection of signatures for no-confidence to Mr Ligi. «The Estonian people are tired of the mocking remarks by the finance minister. Repeatedly, Jürgen Ligi has proven to be unfit to be member of Estonian government, and here the Riigikogu has a moral obligation to intervene,» said Ms Simson.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Ligi repeatedly asked for forgiveness and also deleted the post. While at it, he claimed not to deem resignation necessary for the slip. «My comment came from my heart, but it was overly emotional. Again, I ask for Mr Ossinovski’s forgiveness,» said Mr Ligi.

«At the moment, I was not afraid of public attention, which was careless,» he noted and added he admired Mr Ossinovski’s Estonia-mindedness and language skills.

«But what I want to say and have said even before is that we have a new generation grown up which sees something of an economic paradise across the sea and should be continuously explained that we need to work for our well-being, that our distance to Finland [as ahead] is shrinking fast. In the TV show where we ought to have been talking about next year budget, processes painful to Estonia – be it demographics or economy – should not be blamed on the previous government,» added Mr Ligi.

While appearing at «Ringvaade» yesterday, Mr Ligi was not as resolute regarding stepping down, saying all options were still on the table.

Neither Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, in Brussels for EU summit, nor environment minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus filling in for him see a need to have Mr Ligi replaced.

«Mr Ligi is a strong finance minister who is sharper than politicians are usually expected to be. If the apology is accepted and the issue settled, then there is no need to replace finance minister. Mr Ligi has been a strong finance minister,» said Ms Pentus-Rosimannus.

Despite the criticism, Mr Ligi remaining minister will probably fail to cause great shakings in the coalition.

«Parties are able to quarrel and to make up. Most damaging here that Estonia’s «non-friends» got a nice bone in their teeth to be gnawed at long and thorough,» commented Eiki Nestor, a soc dems member and President of the Riigikogu.

Comment

Aivar Reinap

Deputy editor-in-chief, Postimees

Before the elections, Jürgen Ligi, author of this unexpected mess for Reform Party by his big mouth, might use some rest. The veteran minister, showing obvious signs of a burnout, can no longer tame his superiority before anybody and hits out in all directions. Verbal juggling of this sort may easily go too far, as soundness of mind may get overridden while the daring ratchets up. 

Having a beer at sauna many things may be permissible, but haughtiness and tawdriness distaste in public space will be no good for the image of politicians – rather low as it already is. It would be prudent for Reform Party to let Mr Ligi take some rest and think things over – instead of sinking into the same mire with Mr Ligi in profuseness of apologies. And Mr Ligi does have an earlier experience of stepping down and a successful comeback.

For Reform Party, it would be an excellent opportunity time-wise for a shift as Siim Kallas, competent in finances in every way, is returning to Estonia. Provided, of course, that Mr Kallas proves able to clarify his old murky financial stuff – something he lacked the nerve for, half a year ago.    

However, operation «Silver Bullet» may indeed continue where it left off i.e. while in opposition, IRL would hardly show restraint in attacking Mr Kallas. On the other hand, the IRL prime ministerial candidate Juhan Parts was recently so kind as to propose the very Siim Kallas as best candidate for foreign minister.

Banking on Mr Kallas, the squirrels could count on considerable votes tally in upcoming elections which, now that Andrus Ansip and Kaja Kallas left for Europe, would serve Reform Party well. Variant B would be the world’s best finance minister Aivar Sõerd, but he has not been overly popular among the people. Even so, getting busy as finance minister would go markedly more smooth and painless for a man like Mr Sõerd.

Jürgen Ligi acrimony

•    In January 2013, things heated up at ETV’s «Foorum» with Centre Party’s Kadri Simson butted in on Mr Ligi’s talk. The finance minister showered Ms Simson with advice such as «Oh quit the cackle!», «Shut up!» and «Would you be so nice as to shut up!».

•    In 2012, Mr Ligi went ironic on party fellow Kaja Kallas in TV 3 programme «Kolmeraudne»: «Well you know I’ve been at these meetings and seen how the young people take part in debates; then, her beautiful big eyes are usually above her shut mouth.»

•    In 2012, in Riigikogu information time, Mr Ligi commented the Doctors’ Association representative Andres Kork standing for wage requirements by physicians. «When I speak of whining, I mean the doctors’ representative. Look at his composure, look at his tone, look, he always behaves the same, irrespective of the situation and the topic. This definitely is a medical problem, but this is not the way to solve medicine’s problems when [they] come up with dozens and dozens of percents of wage demands.»

•    In 2009, Mr Ligi poured insults and obscenities on then Postimees’ journalist Kalle Muuli who, on the radio show «Olukorrast riigis» (On situation in the state) proposed the parliament took a month of holiday without pay. «Purgatory is a time-tested means. By it, infected corpses and dry rotten houses have been destroyed. With your talk, you Kalle come someplace between the two. Burning will help when, for half a century in a row, you cannot wake up nor go to sleep without thinking how to humble the Riigikogu, when all of Estonian politics for you are p****i, n****i [hard-hitting curse words loaned from the Russian language – edit] and dried up droppings, when all your thoughts end up with Riigikogu wages,» Mr Ligi wrote in his blog.

Jürgen Ligi’s message on Facebook

Ossinovski’s «balance» is nothing but rootlessness and ignorance,» the minister replied early yesterday morning. «The man thinks that history begun with him and in all topics he follows the selfsame ugly cliché about the former govt [being] this and that, and now he has home. Totally mixing up patterns and guilt of the state. This time, in the context of links between emigration and historic heritage. This very ignorance in the issue we began with from is the main stimulus for the youth to leave.

A minister should say it pays to be patient and try hard, we are doing ever better (not so with Finland, you see); he says Soviet rule is not to be blamed, he will fix it. An immigrant’s son from a pink [political] party, he ought to be top cautious, but he’s oblivious to [even] take a look.

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