Kaja Kallas: our first choice is a government with Isamaa and SDE

Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party party gestures at her party headquarters after parliamentary elections in Tallinn, Estonia, early Monday, March 4, 2019.

PHOTO: Raul Mee / AP / Scanpix

Congratulations on a brilliant personal result! You have been given over 18,000 votes (the interview took place at 10.45 p.m. yesterday – ed.). That is more than Taavi Rõivas got in Harju and Rapla counties last time around and more than twice that of Jüri Ratas today. How did you manage to pull that far ahead?

I cannot say. It is likely not all votes have been counted, and things might still change.

Only about ten polling stations remain uncounted. Does the lead come as a surprise?

Yes, it does. I thought it would be a difficult district to win. Jüri Ratas has been very popular, and there were other strong candidates, like Marina Kaljurand for the social democrats or Marko Mihkelson for us. I did not expect to get this many votes.

While a number of stations remain uncounted in Tallinn, Reform seems poised to take the win. Should that remain the case, who will you approach first in terms of forming the next coalition?

We need to look at the possibilities. It is arithmetic inside 101. I have ruled out cooperation with EKRE. Estonia 200 will likely be left out of the Riigikogu. This means there will be just three parties we can talk to. The Social Democrat Party (SDE) and Isamaa would be our first preference.

The Reform Party built a lot of its campaign on opposition to the Center Party and you personally on contrasting to Jüri Ratas. Should a triumvirate coalition prove impossible or negotiations come to nothing, can you imagine a government of Reform and Center?

I can. I have said before that there are three main topics that are complicated and where we will not back down. One is tax policy. We definitely want a flat tax system where everyone would be eligible for a universal basic exemption and a single income tax rate after that. Secondly, there’s citizenship policy: the language examination must be retained. Thirdly, we have language policy, or Estonian-language education in other words. This is where our program differs from Center’s; everything else is negotiable.

You will not be surrendering ground concerning these things?

We would not like to. Those are our red lines.

You first choice is still a coalition with SDE and Isamaa?

Yes, definitely.

Why?

Because cooperation with them has worked well in the past. A lot of our principles overlap, and SDE and Reform are mutually complementary in many aspects.

At the same time, SDE and Isamaa threw Reform out of the government just a few years ago. Forgive and forget?

You don’t last long in politics holding grudges. Margus Tsahkna, who was behind the switch of government, is not longer with Isamaa. Today, we are arguing over principles more often than personalities.

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