Estonia looks likely to have a new government led by the Reform Party after the opposition rightwing Ismaa party signalled at the weekend that it would join negotiations being led by Reform, rather than those launched by the Centre Party.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas last week threw the Centre Party out of their ruling coalition, and invited the opposition Ismaa and Social Democrat parties to join it in a new coalition. At the same time, the Centre Party invited Ismaa and the far-right Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to form a new coalition.
“Isamaa considered the offers made very thoroughly," Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said on June 11 at the party’s extended meeting, adding that there was also discussion of whether to join any governing coalition at all. "Finally, we reached a consensus that we would start negotiations with the Reform Party and the Social Democrats," he said, BNS, a Baltic newswire, reported on June 11.
However, Seeder said that Isamaa will remain behind the family benefits bill currently before parliament – among the factors which had sparked the split between the Reform and Centre parties – and also that the Estonian-Russian border agreement should be frozen.
As reported by bne IntelliNews, Kallas kicked the Centre party out from the coalition for its staunch embrace of the family benefits bill.
According to Seeder, Isamaa did not decide to definitely form a government with someone, but the extended board expressed hope that the conditions to be put on the table would provide an opportunity to form a coalition.
Seeder also confirmed that the new government should be formed as soon as possible, and not wait until the autumn. "At the same time, there must be no situation where the parties have understood things differently. Time must be taken enough to be able to reach an agreement," he added.
Seeder said that one of the most important issues is national defence and there will likely be no major contradictions between the parties in this regard. "Isamaa's position is that enough must be allocated for national defence to ensure Estonia's security," he added.
According to him, Isamaa definitely wants to bring to the table the right of third-country nationals to vote in local elections as well as the issuance of weapons permits to citizens of Russia and Belarus.
Seeder said that the second group of topics is family policy and that the family benefits bill, which has caused great opposition recently, is still Isamaa's goal and must be adopted in its current form.
If adopted, it will raise the child allowance for the first and second child from €60 to €100, that is, to the same level as the child allowance for the third and subsequent children. According to the draft, the allowance for families with many children will rise from €300 to €700 per month for families with three to six children, and from €400 euro to €900 for families with seven or more children. In order that the allowance for families with many children would continue to be proportional to the rise in the standard of living, and that the amount of the allowance would not need to be changed every year, the allowance will be indexed by 1 April of each year.
Isamaa is also of the opinion that the Estonian-Russian border agreement should be frozen, as should all initiatives concerning the so-called hate speech bill.
PM Kaja Kallas commended on June 11 Isamaa's decision to accept Reform's proposal to start coalition negotiations.
"We thank Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) for agreeing to start talks to form a new coalition. The three parties have a strong common ground to create a government that brings Estonia through crises, is Estonian-minded, strengthens our security and offers people a sense of economic security," Kallas said.
"The Reform Party wants to quickly set a timetable for coalition talks to move forward with the formation of a new government," she added.
Meanwhile, Jaanus Karilaid, the head of the Centre Party group in the Estonian parliament, predicted on June 11 that the Reform Party will agree with the family benefits bill being pushed by Isamaa.
"I wish success to Isamaa in negotiating a new coalition. There has already been talk that the Reform Party is ready to support the bill on raising child and family benefits pending in the Riigikogu [parliament]," Karilaid wrote on social media. "Yesterday's criticism from the Reform Party is forgotten first by Reform Party members themselves. Excise duties will be lowered and there will be an energy market reform," he added.
Karilaid added that the Centre Party changed the content and direction of Estonian politics. "Estonia will win! The comfort zone has been broken. We are ready for refreshing work in the opposition!" he added.