JANEK MÄGGI: DON’T CRY, ESTONIA – THERE’S A PERFECTLY DECENT GOVERNMENT TO BE FOUND IN THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY!
, Eesti Päevaleht
Those involved in the ‘drinks in the car’ public-spending scandal that erupted last year aren’t fooled by the crocodile tears shed by their prime minister, so beloved of other world leaders.
Kaja Kallas, who turns 45 on 18 June, is faced with packing her make-up bag and designer dresses and clearing out of Stenbock House. As the head of the party responsible for the collapse of the government, she can say goodbye to her dreams of becoming NATO secretary general. She will lose her position, and with it any need anyone else might have for her. It can’t be ruled out that if her party is left once again in opposition that they’ll set about replacing their leader before the next elections. And a politician who has no position is of no use to themselves or their party.
If there’s no chance of (or desire for) victory under the bumbling auspices of Jüri Ratas, the days that created all this confusion are over – it’ll be back to the musty halls of parliament, there to be met by the withered expressions of the nevertheless newly energised members of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia and their own party members, whose ire at their failure will know no bounds – seven people having to give up their posts and start knocking on doors again.
Just as her forerunner Taavi Rõivas came up short in keeping his government together, so too has Kaja Kallas failed. Because the only person holding the reins in this situation is the prime minister. Andrus Ansip was very comfortable in the saddle; Jüri Ratas proved himself fairly adept in this regard as well.
Taking a photo in front of a mountain doesn’t make it any less of a mole hill
It’s tradition in Estonia to emphasise the inconsequential. A prime minister or even a president who basks in the light of the world’s best and brightest while taking selfies with them shows themselves to be particularly dense – something of which even Jüri Ratas and Kersti Kaljulaid were guilty. Of course the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden feel not the slightest connection to the dull leaders of a nothing of a country, but they still flash a smile when the cameras are on them, making headlines at home the local big shots can irritate their rivals with. But discontent on home soil is much more dangerous to a prime minister than being of trifling interest abroad.
The influence the country’s head of government wields in international politics is routinely overstated in Estonia. In the best-case scenario, big countries will refer to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as the Baltic States, and it’s no surprise that in visiting one or more of them they get them mixed up and have no idea where they are.
The United States has to decide whether they’re better off chummying up to China or Russia (to stop the two of them becoming as thick as thieves), and they’re not going to ask Estonia or its prime minister for permission to do so. Angela Merkel didn’t ask us what to do about Russia or how many pipelines it was okay to lay in the Baltic Sea, and Olaf Scholz won’t either. At best we’re told what we’re allowed to think and say and what we’re not.
Estonia’s leaders are in the habit of rising to heights from which domestically they can only plummet head-first into the outdoor khazi, spreading natural fertiliser far and wide. Even Taavi Rõivas, who by nature is a cordial, enthusiastic sort of chap, liked the outside world too much. While he was floating around in it, his opponents at home were busy sawing the legs off the prime minister’s seat – so when he returned to perch himself on it, he went flying.
The Reform Party is dreaming of the resurrection of their former coalition with the Pro Patria party and the Social Democrats. Unfortunately, politics is marked out by two types of betrayal: those which may be forgiven, and those which never are. The albatross around the reformists’ neck is their inability to deceive their partners in such a way that they’ll be forgiven for it. Likening the Centre Party to Putin’s Russia was the poison the prime minister, in her attempts to hold the government together, should have swallowed, not spat out. It was sand flung in the eyes that was never coming out.
A government that tortures its own people must be toppled
You have to understand where Jüri Ratas is coming from: he wants to figure in Estonian politics for as long as possible, but never again does he want to sit on the opposition bench for nine years straight, agog at how the Reform Party is managing to govern the country on its own. That won’t do for him, even if the current Centre Party ministers would be more than happy with the outcome – to work, in the view of the media from a backwoods country (and thanks to the war), with the most influential of all European leaders, one unrivalled at taking selfies and under whose aegis unconstitutional restrictions were placed on Estonian citizens with the sole aim of making life harder for the core supporters of competing opposition parties.
“In a state based on the rule of law, nobody can be coerced into showing solidarity. Moreover, the Estonian state was not founded on the principle of solidarity, but on those of liberty, justice and the rule of law – wherein the preamble to our Constitution, which was drafted from a liberalist viewpoint, sets the first of those ahead of other considerations. And in the classic liberalist world view, liberty is defined as a lack of compulsion.” So decreed the courts in finding government policy enacted in the last year to be tormenting to the people of the country to the point of being impermissible. Such policy has no place in Estonia, and the only option for the government which pursued it is to deposit itself in the dustbin of history.
What’s unique about dustbins, however, is that they occasionally bring the dead back to life. The dustbins of history do burn, sometimes like sparklers, sometimes like candles with the longest of wicks. At the moment it seems as though Kaja Kallas has become godmother to an undead government rising from that dustbin. It doesn’t matter how popular a prime minister is abroad. It doesn’t even matter how popular they are in their own country. What matters is how popular they are within their own parliament. In Estonia, the prime minister needs the love of just 51 people (for which read: the love of their leaders), or at the very least can’t step on too many of their toes. Unfortunately for Kaja Kallas, she’s already broken most of them. And after failing in the parliament, all else is pointless.