Political review: Patria 2.0

Joosep Värk
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: Jaanus Lensment

At party vision conference this past Saturday, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) chairman Margus Tsahkna held a speech on how Estonia and IRL are supposed to move forward.

As he was talking, Mr Tsahkna brought burbly ideas which inspired me to lay aside all genres fitting to report on an event like this (news, coverage, opinion) and write a review. Why? Because it feels best and what else are events like these than spectacles.

Thus, the review. In this political season, for me it is the second political show (the first being Centre Party congress).

Both were characterise by the emotional and calculated musical side; for the backdrop of Edgar Savisaar speaking, they played Carl Orff, Margus Tsahkna spoke to the tunes of Olav Ehala. Herein, the difference was seen between the two parties. Unlike IRL, Centre is unafraid to be grandiose/pompous while not embarrassed by lack of taste. In comparison, IRL must be praised while «Papa Carlo’s Song» before the speech by Mr Tsahkna came across a bit treacly (though the song as such is beautiful).

As Mr Tsahkna started off he seemed to be a bit uptight and it felt like the text he read off the prompter would never evolve into a speech. Surprisingly, he was helped out by fire alarm going off in the building. Helped out by cutely joking about it, he sort of broke the ice.  

So the speech really begun once the alarm was turned off. As highlighted after use in Estonia a while ago by the US president Barack Obama, Mr Tsahkna’s transparent teleprompters for a while rose to the audience’s attention: with text skilfully read from these, it seems like the speaker has every syllable by heart.  

Before the parliamentary elections, for a while it seemed that politicians rather wanted these to be noticed – to earn a parallel with Mr Obama. Laudably for Mr Tsahkna, during his address he managed to make the audience forget the teleprompters, by focussing on the message and the public.  

The conservative interlude

In his speech, Mr Tsahkna criticized the Reform Party idea of a new Nordic and its socialist background, tabled an ambitious idea of two million Estonians, talked about the migration quota and the traditional family, but for some reason still arrived at Man being what is most important. A bit ironically, this being a favourite slogan for the socialists and almost characteristic in their latest campaign.

But whatever the stir created by the Isamaa 2.0 and two million Estonians, it soon fell apart in the winds created by Lauri Vahtre entering the stage and talking about what is normal and what is not, what is multikulti and what is socialism, and just had to mention Stalin and Hitler.

While Mr Tsahkna’s message sounded like Windows 10, Mr Vahtre felt like Windows 95. For such an old computer, new programs won’t fit. But these were the doubts in me merely, for Mr Vahtre’s applause was the loudest of the night.  

After Mr Vahtre, they showed videos of kids: this always works. Then came the panel discussion featuring Kersti Kaljulaid, Priit Alamäe, Mihhail Lotman, Valdur Mikita and Mati Heidmets. Not much discussion with people with such like views during an hour, unless forced by the host. The discussion was slow but interesting. All performed up to expectations, while I would focus on two.

One was European Court of Auditors member Ms Kaljulaid who was able to talk very plain on complex issues and make abstracts like natural increase tangible. If I did not know that Ms Kaljulaid will head the think-tank Praxis, I’d really understand why IRL wants her back from Europe. IRL badly needs people like that.    

Applause and its lack

The other weighty aspect from the discussion was that when Mihhail Lotman in the context of reaching the two million Estonians spoke of natural increase and immigration and said he favoured the first, the people applauded. Thereafter he said that having five children he has done his share with natural increase. Again an applause.

And when Mr Lotman mentioned he’s a son of an immigrant who is of no Estonian decent at all and yet a nationalist, nothing followed. In the light of the last year, I’d have expected the open nationalists to erupt in ovations.

To end the programme part, Põlva county governor Ulla Preeden spoke and she is a good speaker. Smoothly and convincingly she was able to relate what IRL indents to do. It was followed by a little computer class by IRL international secretary Veiko Lukmann, and the content of the conference was exhausted.

For times to come, let me offer IRL two bits of advice. Firstly: don’t waste a good crisis. Hostess of the evening, Riigikogu member Viktoria Ladõnskaja in her initial statements criticised the headline to this author’s Friday article in Postimees about IRL’s comeback – she says IRL never went anywhere.

IRL is having a good crisis going, but if they do not even acknowledge it then they are still trying not to fix things but to «enhance» then as the Legalese goes and this is wasting a good crisis. This will lead nowhere, because this is what brought them here.

And the second piece of advice is very simple. Less of Lauri Vahtre, more of Kersti Kaljulaid and Ulla Preeden – and Isamaa 2.0 looks a lot more feasible.