Estonia’s president appoints coalition of centrists and far-right

Estonia’s president appoints coalition of centrists and far-right
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw April 25, 2019

The Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid officially appointed the leader of the centre-left Centre Party Juri Ratas as the country’s prime minister on April 24. 

Ratas has served as prime minister since November 2016, but lost the parliamentary election in March. Despite this, he will preside over a coalition government he managed to piece together with the highly controversial far-right EKRE party and the conservative Fatherland group.

Ratas outmanoeuvred the liberal Reform party, which won the popular vote but proved unable to form a coalition with social democrats from SDE and Fatherland while also ruling out any cooperation with EKRE.

The Centre-led coalition has 56 seats in the 101-seat Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu.

Similarly to other right-wing populists that have gained in popularity in the European Union recently, EKRE is a Eurosceptic party fiercely opposed to immigration.

EKRE will be responsible for five ministries in the Ratas government. The far-right is taking over at the helm of the interior, finance, rural affairs, environment, and foreign trade ministries.

Speaking to reporters on April 24, EKRE chairman Mart Helme used combative language. 

"This will not be a stagnant government. It will be a government that will break many things in Estonia… It will break many budget cliches, it will change many views that seem to have fossilised in Estonian politics,” Helme said according to France24.

The PM and his ministers will now take oath of office in the parliament on April 29 to complete the process of taking over power.

Speaking at the signing of the decree on the new government, Kaljulaid talked of a “crisis of values” in Estonia, despite saying democracy in the country is not in crisis. 

“Our elections were honest and transparent, and a government that is supported by the majority of the Riigikogu is legitimate and represents the will of the people,” Kaljulaid said according to a statement from the presidency. "However, we can see the crisis of values expressed in the fact that the four of us stand here today, in front of the Estonian people – even before I can sign the decree to appoint the government into office.” 

The president also called for the first 100 days of the new government to be without malice. “I want to believe in an Estonia that can move forward once these 100 days are over. In an Estonia with less anger and fear,” she concluded.