Paet eyes return from MEP to minister

Oliver Kund
, 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: Pm

Member of the European Parliament Urmas Paet (Reform Party) says he does not crown list of candidates as mere magnet for votes. Rather, the man harbours hopes to make it back into next government as minister.

«I would definitely not exclude that, if needed and possible, I will again be working in the government in the period to come,» said Mr Paet when substantiating to Postimees why, while busy in Brussels, he has agreed to run as No 4 in Reform Party general list and No 1 in the district of Mustamäe and Nõmme. «I am deeply convinced that, in order to work in the government, a person definitely ought to also have a mandate of the parliament.»

Mr Paet would not disclose on what condition and for which portfolio he’d quit being MEP. «These fields of life are many, but it depends what the coalition will be. The party and its supporters have an important opportunity to say what the government will be like,» said Mr Paet who, four years ago, secured a personal mandate in the selfsame district with 10,779 votes.

According to Mr Paet, the past nine years as foreign minister were pleasant, but that will not exclude his interest towards domestic-political portfolios, as «several areas are very closely interconnected». One may imagine the prize to be defence ministerial chair – one which, when winning the elections, Reform Party is probably eager to snatch in order to start implementing its national defence strategy. As we remember, at first try this past spring, Mr Paet declined to go to Brussels referring to the changed security situation.

Of Mr Paet’s colleagues in Brussels, Yana Toom (Centre Party) and Tunne Kelam (IRL) will also run. The latter last participated in Riigikogu elections in 2003 and may, in addition to supporting the party, be seeking a way back into domestic policy.

Mr Paet’s party comrade Kaja Kallas and soc dem Marju Lauristin refused to run for the Riigikogu this year; digital vice-president Andrus Ansip cannot do it due to position.

Yana Toom, Centre Party’s No 1 in Ida-Viru County, is going by the same principle as her party’s chairman Edgar Savisaar over the past three elections. «Considering my place in the list of candidates, I do have the Riigikogu mandate as if; even so, I will make my decision regarding Riigikogu according to the result of the party,» said Ms Toom. «If Centre Party is in the opposition, I can better defend the interests of my voters while in Brussels. If it wins the elections and is in the coalition, Then I’ll return to Estonia.»

Result breeds move

According to Ms Toom, she personally offered herself to run at Riigikogu elections to support Centre Party election win. In her own words, Ms Toom is not out to deceive the voters in Ida-Viru County. «I will try to behave ethically, stating clearly that I will waive the Brussels mandate only in case we will be in the government.»

The elections ahead will also see such people running that have promised to give up politics and have reconsidered by now. One such is the Riigikogu Constitutional Committee chairman Rait Maruste (Reform Party) who said in the fall of 2013 he’d exit politics in 2015.

«From the start, I was looking to see how my health would take it all,» recalled Mr Maruste who is running again as Reform Party No 4 in Tartu. «Judging by the current situation, I decided I might still continue.»

Mr Maruste is not in favour of the decoy duck run at Riigikogu elections. «Honestly, I don’t like it too well either. It ought to be clear if the individual is coming or not, but it is up to the voters to ask the question. This could be in the politician’s face, telling him: «I am willing to vote for you if you come to Riigikogu. But if you’re not coming, I will take a different stand while marking the ballot paper,»» Said the resolute Mr Maruste.

Just to support her party, former Riigikogu speaker Ene Ergma (IRL) has signed up – one to announce quitting politics last year in midsummer. «I was asked just to be a supporter to my party. They said I’m still IRL vice chairman and might support. They brought me Marju Lauristin as an example of one who always helped her party,» explained Ms Ergma.

She only agreed to participate at the elections on the condition of being placed the last in general list and her home district of Tartu also. Ms Ergma expressed hopes she’d not be disappointing the hopes of voters by running as the public is aware of her decision in summer to quit. «My decision to quit is still in force, I am not doing any election activity,» she assured.

Politician is like sportsman

According to Ain Seppik (Reform Party) running in Ida-Viru County, the candidates ought indeed to be honest towards the voters, yet supporting the parties was not to be condemned due to its political-technical aspects. «An active politician, like a decent sportsman, should at every competition try to prove himself,» said Mr Seppik.

Even so, if in haste to disclose intent to waive the mandate before the elections, this may backfire.

«At the last EU elections Edgar Savisaar said he wasn’t intending to go there at all and the result was he was, so to speak, beaten by Yana Toom. For the political greats, the risk is there,» reminded Mr Seppik.

Reform Party secretary-general Martin Kukk expressed hopes that there were no decoy ducks in their 125 members strong list and all candidates would head to Riigikogu granted the mandate. «If an individual knows, already before the elections, that he will waive the mandate, he ought to definitely say so,» underlined Mr Kukk.

Centre Party secretary-general Priit Toobal begs to totally differ: no need to promise the voters ahead of time that one goes to Riigikogu. «In my opinion, it is honest to say before elections that you are out to get a mandate. Deciding if you use it only surfaces once you have the mandate. It depends of we are in the position of power or in opposition,» thinks Mr Toobal.

As an example of that, he said that Edgar Savisaar and Yana Toom would decide the use of the mandates only in the couple of hours during the night of March 1st. Mr Toobal said this isn’t cheating the voters as the one casting the vote will support the candidate’s activities up to now and the platform of the party. A candidate’s political considerations whether or not to change jobs can be guessed by voters without being explicitly stated. «I do not consider the voter stupid. He will probably consider that the party will keep the votes,» said Mr Toobal.