Hi everybody it's time for a brand-new Estonian Government Crisis And Scandals™ thread!

Proceed cautiously: the thread will be LONG.
#Estonia #Eesti #valitsus #KajaKallas #JüriRatas #EKRE #Keskerakond #SDE #Isamaa #Reformierakond
Background info: Estonia has a government of centre-right Reform party and centre-left Centre party. The government has been in power since January 2020. Opposition consists of conservative Fatherland (Isamaa) party, right-wing EKRE party, and centre-left Social Democratic party. Image
The government had several major disagreements so far that mostly followed a familiar pattern: Centre demands some additional social spending, Reform refuses on the grounds of budgetary constraints, everybody speculates that the govmnt will fall...
...and then the parties agree on a compromise that leaves both looking unappealing to voters: Centre voters think that the compromise is too little, too late; Reform voters think that their party is forced to go along with coalition partner's ultimatums.
As a result, both parties hit the lowest level of support in several years by January 2021, while EKRE and an extra-parliamentary centre-(right?) liberal Estonia 200 party benefited from Centre's and Reform's decline respectively. Kantar EMOR polls 2018-2022...
Moreover, each time a government crisis over social spending or pandemic measures happened (one time Centre demanded tougher measures, several months later a quick relaxation of measures), it was speculated Centre wanted to resurrect its previous coalition with EKRE and Isamaa...
...while Reform has been accused of wanting to dump Centre for Isamaa and SDE, which has been a governing configuration in 1999-2001 and 2015-2016. And yet, the Reform-Centre government went on.
But then Russia decided to invade Ukraine. 🇪🇪 government provided significant military and humanitarian help to 🇺🇦. Also, the PM and Reform leader Kaja Kallas has gained international publicity and popularity with her interviews to foreign media regarding the war.
So, government should be popular, rally-around-the-flag effect etc, right?
Well, that is the case for Reform party. But Centre did not benefit from that at all. Unfortunately for Centre, they had a small problem of... having previous ties to Russia's ruling party United Russia.
You see, Centre party is very popular among local Russian-speakers, but is barely ahead of Isamaa and SDE among Estonian-speaking voters. Centre's overall support crashed after the war began to unseen low levels. The trend is particularly notable in Turu-Uuringute polls. Polling agency Turu-uuringu...
And then the events became even more interesting.
In March, it was reported that Centre discussed with EKRE and Isamaa the prospects of restoring the previous government coalition that was in power in 2019-2021. The parties denied that.
Another small development happened at the same time. Isamaa proposed raising benefits for large families; SDE introduced two bills on raising child benefits, as well as benefits for single parents.
Those seemingly dead-end opposition proposals marked the shape of things to come.
Because in early May, Centre started collecting signatures from opposition parties to introduce a third bill that would combine the proposals about large families benefits as well as increased child benefits. And they got the support from EKRE, Isamaa and SDE.
The problem for Reform party: they were not consulted. When Reform found out about the proposal, Centre asked them either to agree with the bill, or the bill will be voted through jointly by Centre and opposition anyway. news.err.ee/1608594913/cen…
PM Kallas threatened to resign in the bill passes, accused Centre of destroying the coalition, and called for Centre to "man up" and vote through a motion of confidence against her if Centre doesn't want to be in government anymore. news.err.ee/1608594898/kal…
Centre leader Jüri Ratas himself accused Kallas of starting a government crisis with her threat to resign just because of one benefits law.
So, it is mid May, and both coalition parties accuse each other of wanting to destroy the government.

And yet, at the same time the supplementary budget passed without a problem with coalition votes. news.err.ee/1608601720/rii…
The budget was tied to a confidence motion in order to overcome EKRE's obstructionist tactics, by the way. EKRE introduced hundreds of amendments that would take days or weeks weeks to go through, tying a government-proposed law to a confidence motion allows not to vote on them.
While accusing each other of wanting to destroy the govmnt, Reform and Centre tied several more bills to motions of confidence. They later passed, by the way. news.err.ee/1608602749/gov…
Curios intermezzo: Centre's ex-general secretary and the party as a whole got charged by prosecutors in the influence peddling case that served as a pretext for Centre's leader Ratas to resign as PM in January 2021. news.err.ee/1608603967/pro…
The rhetoric heightened, with Centre and opposition accusing Reform of "hating children", and Reform accusing Centre and opposition of wanting to "buy children" from voters, as well as accusing Centre of wanting to form a govmnt with EKRE and Isamaa. news.err.ee/1608610144/jaa…
Now, let's step back before discussing the events of this week. Some parties are more unified and some are more split than the others. The unified parties have easier time in this crisis.
Namely, Reform and EKRE know what they need to do. Reform just needs to project responsibility. If they are sent into opposition, then they can blame other parties of playing politics amidst the war. Kallas already used that line. Image
If the government continues, then Reform will be able to show that they have the upper hand in government. If the coalition is replaced by Reform-Isamaa-SDE coalition, Reform will probably be able to implement their policies with even fewer problems.
EKRE has been trying to corner the protest voters, so seeing more chaos is ideal for them. Although there might be risks with going into government, EKRE has mastered the art of being able to drive news cycles with outrageous statements both in opposition and in power. Image
For Estonia 200, the picture is quite simple too: they would get into parliament with 12-15% of support now, so they would like to see a snap election. Unfortunately for them, they have 0 influence on that. Or anything else for that matter, as an extra-parliamentary party.
(Btw, their leader is too called Kallas. Kristina Kallas, that is. No relation to PM Kallas.) Image
The problem for Centre, Isamaa, and SDE is that they don't know what they actually want to do. Or, to be precise, their leaders might have their plans, but there are internal disagreements.
For Centre, it is very bad: there are many members who didn't support the govmnt with Reform in the first place, there are many people who hated the last coalition with EKRE, the popular Centre's Tallinn mayor Kõlvart thought they should've gone into opposition in 2019 already...
...but there are many people who will lose their jobs if Centre ends up in opposition. Those are substitution MPs who took the seats of MPs-turned-govmnt ministers (in 🇪🇪, MP status is suspended for the time the person is a govmnt minister).
Also all the minister aids would lose their jobs too. And they are often used as informal party workers too. Especially in case of parties low on cash like Centre.
Reform's ministers are often recruited from top managers, bureaucrats and businessmen. They would be fine if the Reform ended up in opposition. Reform has enough cash to hire ex-ministers' aids as party workers if needed. They will be fine. Centre's people won't.
For Isamaa, the problem is that they have purged their internal opposition in March by throwing the "right-wingers" self-labeled grouping of centrist members out of the party. The problem is, 1/3rd of their Riigikogu faction actually sympathised with "right-wingers".
There is no guarantee those MPs will vote for a renewed Centre-EKRE-Isamaa govmnt. One of them didn't in 2019 already. (The opposition is to the participation of EKRE). Even though most of those MPs are expected not to be nominated for elexn again, they present a problem for now.
But for conservative Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder, the govmnt with Reform and SDE would be too liberal and risk losing some of the few remaining voters to EKRE. Isamaa's support is around 6%, the electoral threshold is 5%. Also he has bad relationship with Reform leadership. Image
SDE elected a more left-wing candidate as their leader this February. Will it be beneficial for SDE to go into govmnt with two fiscally conservative parties after a campaign of promising higher minimum wage, higher social benefits and heavily criticising Reform party for months? Lauri Läänemets, SDE leader
Also, keep in mind that 🇪🇪 has the highest inflation numbers in the EU; it's unknown if the new LNG terminal needed to secure natural gas supplies will be managed to be built by the beginning of heating period; and real incomes are set to decline this year news.err.ee/1608615118/est…
So, nobody really wants to be in govmnt, as election date is set by constitution on the first Sunday of next March - that is on 5.03.2023.
According to the polls, Reform might benefit from a snap election. The only problem is that the constitution makes it very hard to have one.
Out of all clauses, only two can realistically apply here:
- if PM Kallas loses a vote of confidence, she can request the President Alar Karis for a snap election. He does not have to satisfy the demand; President Alar Karis
- or if Kallas resigns/loses the vote of confidence and doesn't ask for a snap election/doesn't get it from the President, and then Riigikogu fails 3 times to elect a new PM, then there will be mandated snap elections. So far, never happened in Estonia's modern history.
So, let's now talk about the most interesting part:
what the hell happened this week in Riigikogu;
the Schrödinger's negotiations;
comparisons of coalition partners to Putin;
an advice to go see an astrologist;
SDE once again having a communication meltdown...
and much more!
On Monday, there was the first reading of Centre and opposition's joint family benefits bill. Reform proposed to drop the bill, all the other parties voted against doing so - the bill advanced to the 2nd reading. Image
The time to present amendments was set for 1st June. Very short time frame, highly unusual. Also it is lastekaitsepäev - International Day for Protection of Children - which is formally acknowledged and officially celebrated by the state in Estonia.
On Tuesday, SDE, which got criticised by several media anchors and columnists, as well as Reform party of helping EKRE come to power by supporting the bill - which is an ideological foe of SDE - stated that they might not support the bill if benefits for single parents are not in
On Wednesday, SDE announced that they withdraw their signatures from the bill, as EKRE blocked the addition of benefits to single parents. Simultaneously SDE leader Lauri Läänemets claimed that Centre, EKRE and Isamaa aren't actually interested in helping children...
... since they allegedly didn't take any SDE's proposals to amend the bill seriously. Also Läänemets claimed that he has information about Centre, EKRE and Isamaa hevaily negotiating on a new government. news.err.ee/1608615922/soc…
News reports indicate that the actual reason was split inside the party about the bill: the leadership decided to suport it initially, but some MPs weren't behind it from the start. Essentially, SDE leadership had to cave in to internal opposition amidst media criticism.
The communication aspect is "perfect": the party did a U-turn of accusing Kallas of not caring abt children to accusing Ratas of only pretending to care about chuldren in just 2 days. And also dropped its support for a bill about children... on Children Protection Day.
Though party claims it still might vote on a bill if its amendments are taken into account, as well as it hopes its own children and single parents benefits bills that propose more limited benefit raises could be supported by other parties, there is no reason to believe that.
Meanwhile, Reform party made a curious decision of their own: for the first time in history, the ruling party, the party of PM decided to obstruct parliamentary process by introducing 2000 of amendments to the family benefits bill. news.err.ee/1608616381/ref…
While Reform used the tactics in the past when it was in opposition, it is unprecedented for the ruling party to do so.
All the while on Tuesday several govmnt bills tied to votes of confidence finally came up to the vote... and got happily passed with Reform and Centre support.
But on Wednesday, a government bill NOT tied with a vote of confidence came up. The bill would have reformed pre-school regulations. Centre and EKRE voted against it, SDE intentionally abstained, and only Reform and Isamaa voted for it.
Centre claimed they voted against the bill bcs they did not read it closely (!) when it was discussed in cabinet and found out the bill includes unacceptable changes only when their MPs read it. At least health and employment minister Tanel Kiik says so.
So, to sum up:
Centre votes on all votes of confidence with Reform, coalition continues so far;
but also Centre works with EKRE and Isamaa on children benefits bill, while SDE got cold feet;
but SDE doesn't really support Reform's bills either;
but Isamaa sometimes does.
There is no pattern of either current coalition, or Centre+EKRE+Isamaa or Reform+Isamaa+SDE working together on all questions. The longer such situation continues, and as long as govnmt sticks together on confidence votes, the less likely it is there would be a snap election.
If Reform uses all the available procedural steps before votes on each amendment, the bill's 2nd reading might not end by the time the parliament goes to summer recess. And then it will mean no votes in Riigikogu till September.
Keep in mind, Reform said they are OK with discussing raising children benefits as a part of ordinary budget process - that is, in the Autumn. So kicking the can down the road until Riigikogu goes to a recess and coming up with a compromise in the Autumn is possible.
Unless Riigikogu leadership - no one else but Centre leader and Parliament's Speaker Ratas - decides to have a special session. Which would mean the desire to escalate conflict with Reform further.
While many commentators say it is Isamaa who will decide which government - Centre-EKRE-Isamaa one or Reform-Isamaa-SDE one - will be formed, it shouldn't be discounted that the lack of support for either option will force Centre and Reform to come to some sort of agreement.
Let's end the thread for now with the only tangible results we have got from this crisis: wonderful WTF quotes we got this week.
EKRE deputy chair says they are fine with going into govmnt with Reform party. Last year, Kallas promised there won't be such a coalition as long as she is the Reform leader.
And yet, EKRE would be apparently OK with such a coalition. err.ee/1608617176/pol…
Why this is a WTF quote: EKRE MPs, leadership and party's news site uueduudised.ee routinely accuse Reform of "destroying Estonia", introducing "mass migration", ties to George Soros (no comments), and since the war started, Kallas being "a war princess".
Centre leader Jüri Ratas too gave us a WTF quote this week: he advised journalists to ask an astrologist Igor Mang whether the colaition will survive. news.err.ee/1608616357/rat…
Why it is a WTF quote: Igor Mang is the most (in)famous astrologist in 🇪🇪. It seemed like he would be dropped by newspapers as their to-go-astrologist (and all mainstream 🇪🇪 newspapers somehow love astrologists) after 2 scandals...
...involving defrauding Tallinn city out of money by renting out his social housing flat (which he was not actually entitled to in the first place), as well as repeated claims of sexual assaults by clients who came to have their fortunes told. But Mang is still popular with media Image
And maybe the most WTF quote came from PM Kallas, who seemingly compared Centre's Ratas to Putin, and when the shocked journalists asked her to clarify, hang up.
news.err.ee/1608617293/int… Image
Tune in next week, or maybe earlier, if anything significant comes up! Knowing 🇪🇪 politicians, there certainly is much more room for more absurd claims, petty arguments and head-scratching quotes! Buckle up - you are in for a ride!
#Estonia #Eesti #Kallas #Ratas #governmentcrisis

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More from @EstoniaVotes

Jun 3
Now the news is also available in English on public broadcasting webpage:
Centre deputy chief Karilaid: Kallas has confirmed Reform's treasonous ways; the decision proves "parallel negotiations" between Reform, Isamaa and SDE have already taken place. err.ee/1608618871/kar…
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As electoral system is proportionate with 5% threshold, it can be said that everybody's vote counts equally. Or can it?
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