Sa, 2.12.2023

Kaja Kallas’ second shot at becoming prime minister

Henry-Laur Allik
Photo: Sander Ilvest

Even though Prime Minister Jüri Ratas’ resignation was initially followed by rumors of the recent coalition moving forward  together, it became clear by noon on Wednesday that the Center Party does not wish to stay in the same coalition with the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and sees its future in a partnership with the Reform Party.

President Kersti Kaljulaid asked Reform leader Kaja Kallas to form a new government immediately after accepting Ratas’ resignation. “We do not have time to wait for formal deadlines to come and go. There is no time for stalling. The government crisis needs to be solved as quickly as possible. The people of Estonia need functional administration,” Kaljulaid explained.

Kallas gave a short interview following the president’s proposal where she said she would accept but did not elaborate in terms of potential partners. “We will not be holding these talks in front of cameras and parties need to be willing to form a new government first,” Kallas said around noon.

EKRE turned down

Kallas said that EKRE is the only political force Reform rules out as a potential coalition partner. She also said that partners’ desire to keep the recent coalition from falling apart should not be underestimated. “The fact that the government has fallen apart does not automatically mean the coalition is ended.”

Kallas briefly went to the floor to discuss marriage referendum protests and vote on amendment proposals but spent most of the day in faction chambers.

Confident father and son Helme who had met with coalition partners in the morning said they want to continue in the three-way coalition. “Nothing surprises me except the stupidity of the press. You think it is a day of celebration for you – it is not. You will be given the sack again,” Mart Helme said, adding that EKRE will remain in power.

However, his words were soon proved to have been premature as Center Party MPs were far less enthusiastic about remaining in the recent coalition after their faction meeting. Center had had enough of EKRE and decided in favor of an about-turn.

That is when head of Center’s negotiating team Mailis Reps gave the most important interview of the day where she said her party does not wish to stay married to the national conservatives. “MPs have expressed concern over the pros and cons of the recent coalition continuing during deliberations today. And it is no secret that more than a few are tired of back-to-back scandals,” Reps told the press.

She said that Center prefers to form the next government with the Reform Party and Isamaa, adding that Kaja Kallas had suggested Reform is open to cooperation. Reps explained that Center wanted to involve Isamaa as the parties have pursued effective cooperation.

EKRE learned that Center does not wish to take their cooperation forward around noon. Outgoing PM Jüri Ratas also said Wednesday evening that Center will not share a coalition with EKRE moving forward.

“While Center suggested they want to take cooperation forward in the morning, we were told the opposite by noon. Therefore, the recent coalition has ended,” EKRE chair Martin Helme said.

“I have always believed that the Centrists have neither an ideology nor political convictions. Money and power are their ideology and that means agreeing to anything,” Helme added. EKRE, that had said in the morning that the marriage referendum bill will probably need to be put on hold, changed its mind upon learning of Center’s decision and opted to go ahead with its second reading. The second reading failed with 26 votes for, 49 against and 25 not voting.

Even though Center proposed including Isamaa in the new coalition, the latter’s chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder told reporters that no proposal has reached them from the Reform Party. “That does not mean they are not willing to talk. Perhaps they will contact us in the future,” Seeder offered in the afternoon, adding that Isamaa is ready to negotiate with all political forces.

Kallas to see the president

Reform Party sources told Postimees that involving Isamaa in Kallas’ coalition is unlikely because it would add nothing to the partnership as far as Reform is concerned.

Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) Indrek Saar said that he has not received offers worth mentioning.

Reform and Center forming Estonia’s next coalition looked as the most probable development by Wednesday evening. Kallas had not announced a new agreement when the paper went to print. President Kersti Kaljulaid and Kaja Kallas are set to meet on Thursday morning to discuss the president’s proposal. Kallas added that official consultations will begin once she has seen the president.

Kaja Kallas was authorized to form the government also after the 2019 Riigikogu elections but failed to secure the support of the Riigikogu leading to the coalition of Center, EKRE and Isamaa.