Isamaa surprised with its ministers

Mikk Salu
, ajakirjanik
Ministerial candidates of Isamaa. Helir-Valdor Seeder (center) presents: Kristjan Järvan, Riina Solman, Lea Danilson-Järg, Tõnis Lukas.
Ministerial candidates of Isamaa. Helir-Valdor Seeder (center) presents: Kristjan Järvan, Riina Solman, Lea Danilson-Järg, Tõnis Lukas. Photo: Kermo Benrot
  • Isamaa’s choice of ministers hints of the influence of the mayor donor Parvel Pruunsild.
  • It is not easy to offer someone a job for eight months.
  • The rise of Social Democratic candidates to ministerial posts is a somewhat predictable promotion.

Three out five ministerial candidates of Isamaa were predictable. Urmas Reinsalu, Tõnis Lukas and Riina Solman have all been ministers before. If any intrigue could be found here, it would concern Reinsalu, because his replacement member in the Riigikogu will be one of the leading figures of the Right-wingers, Siim Kiisler. This is something Helir-Valdor Seeder would have preferred to avoid but since Kiisler is the replacement member of several well-known Isamaa members, the party leaders must have decided that there was no way out but to let the political rival into the parliament.

The two new ministers of Isamaa – Kristjan Järvan and Lea Danilson-Järg – were a certain surprise. This choice shows the influence on the party of Parvel Pruunsild, the major sponsor of Isamaa. Järvan is best known to the public as the promoter of the voluntary II pillar pension scheme and Danilson-Järg as an enthusiast of population issues. Both spheres (and especially population problems) are very important for Pruunsild.

No time for learning

The largest question mark concerning the two newcomers is that neither has experience of governing a large organization and a government which is meant to work for only eight months cannot grant them much time for learning or settling in. Järvan and Danilson-Järg must be able to perform since day one.

The Social Democrats surprised with their choice of ministers to a lesser extent. It is known that they were seeking a non-politician woman with business background for the post of the minister of economic affairs. As we could see, they had no success. Obviously, it is not easy to offer someone a job for only eight months. Who wants to risk with her career for the sake of a brief ministerial position? Now it is Riina Sikkut who will become the minister of economic affairs. This is somewhat unexpected – Sikkut herself admitted as much –, because she has been mostly related to health care issues and all forecasters offered her the position of the minister of health and labor. On the other hand, she is a professional and experienced politician who can also deal with economic problems.

Expected promotion

The new minister of culture Piret Hartmann is presently deputy secretary general of the same ministry. If there are risks here, these only concern Hartman’s personal prospects. It is not unexpected that veteran civil servants go to politics (this is what happened to Riina Sikkut) but is the Social Democrats should have less luck at next year’s election, it would be much more difficult for Hartman to return from a political post to the neutral role of an official.

Madis Kallas, the Social Democrats’ candidate for the minister of the environment, and Peep Peterson, recommended for the minister of health and labor, have been involved in politics for a long time. Although they have not held top positions at the government level, they are well-known politicians among the Social Democrats. Their rise to ministers is promotion in some sense and at the same time not unexpected.

Reactions to the choice of ministers reflected the coalition agreement

“I would not point out the individuals but some candidates are surprising. I think that for everybody,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas summed up yesterday, apparently not in a very positive mood for many.

But the Social Democrats’ chairman Lauri Läänemets was satisfied with the choice while the chairman of Isamaa Helir-Valdor Seeder was positively jubilant – a sort of reflection of the coalition agreement where the Social Democrats and especially Isamaa had more reason to be happy.

The council sitting of Isamaa on Thursday was characterized by positive emotions and Seeder’s proposal concerning the distribution of the five ministerial portfolios was approved without questions, with obvious satisfaction and joy.

Isamaa has the greatest space for maneuvering during the coalition negotiations: unlike the Social Democrats and Reform Party, they could return to the alternative alliance with EKRE and the Center Party. This was reflected in the coalition agreement where the partners had to make so extensive concessions to Isamaa on every issue that the party eventually received nearly everything it has asked for.

The Social Democrats, whose share of the agreement included nursing home services for pension and the increase of income tax-free minimum income, brought to top politics three ministers from outside the faction. According to Läänemets, their ministers should for the best possible government delegation for Estonia. He said that he did not have to bring to the government any “B-options”.