Estonia’s Centre Party extends coalition offer to nationalists

Estonia’s Centre Party extends coalition offer to nationalists
Centre Party leader and incumbent PM Juri Ratas (pictured) lost the popular vote to liberals from the Reform Party.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw March 12, 2019

Estonia’s ruling Centre Party, which is on the brink of losing power after coming in second in the March 3 elections, has tabled an offer to build a coalition with the far-right and EU-sceptical Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), it emerged on March 11.

The party appears to be throwing everything it has at the battle for power in the enthusiastic EU and Nato member Estonia after the centre-left Russia-leaning Centre Party, led by the incumbent PM Juri Ratas, lost the popular vote to liberals from the Reform Party. Both Centre and Reform pledged to keep EKRE behind a cordon sanitaire in the campaign. 

But the prospect of Reform striking a coalition deal with the social democratic SDE and conservatives from Isamaa (Fatherland) – who are Centre’s current coalition partners – has pushed Ratas to consider ignoring the political consensus of not giving EKRE even a hint of winning power, as its platform does not consider the EU membership a foundation of Estonia’s policymaking.

Centre has now said that a coalition with EKRE would better represent the preferences of Estonian voters, according to Reuters. 

EKRE’s voter base is largely in counties far from the capital Tallinn. The party won 19 seats in the 101-seat Estonian parliament in the March 3 election. 

The nationalists are the third biggest party in effect, behind Reform, which has 34 seats and Centre with 26 seats. Conservatives from Fatherland won 12 seats while SDE has 10.

Reform has been in talks with Fatherland and SDE about a new government but the negotiations could boil down to nothing if the PM Ratas manages to overcome differences with EKRE. 

A coalition of Centre, EKRE, and Fatherland would have 57 seats in the parliament. A cabinet made of Reform, Fatherland, and SDE would have 56.