Estonia’s government collapses as leader loses confidence vote
Conflicting views over taxation and improving the economy is the main cause for breakup
Estonian prime minister Taavi Roivas lost a confidence vote in parliament. Photograph: Alain Jorcardalain/AFP/Getty Images
Estonia’s government has collapsed after the prime minister, Taavi Rõivas, lost a confidence vote in parliament following months of cabinet squabbling, mainly over economic policies.
Lawmakers in the 101-seat parliament on Wednesday ousted Mr Rõivas in a 63-28 vote, with 10 members abstaining or absent.
Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, has summoned the heads of the six parliamentary parties on forming a new government.
The main opposition Centre party, which is tipped to lead the new government, has vowed to keep Estonia solidly rooted in the eurozone and Nato as the Baltic state of 1.3 million people gears up to assume the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2017.
The party chose a new leader, 38-year-old Jüri Ratas, at the weekend, raising calls for him to take over as prime minister.
Commanding 27 seats, the Centre party is popular among the sizeable ethnic Russian minority who account for a quarter of Estonia’s population.
A respected deputy speaker of parliament, Mr Ratas replaced Edgar Savisaar (66) whose perceived ties to Russia had scared off potential coalition partners amid heightened tensions with Moscow.
“Jüri Ratas has today said nothing will change in Estonia’s stance vis-a-vis Nato, the EU,” Estonian political analyst Ahto Lobjakas told AFP on Wednesday.
“He would risk an immense public backlash were he to go back on these commitments. I have no reason to think him disingenuous,” he added.
Mr Rõivas’s government was formed in April 2015 after his Reform party won the parliamentary elections. But its work has been hampered by serious policy differences between the party and its coalition partners – the left-leaning Social Democrats and conservative IRL Party.
Conflicting views over taxation and improving the state of Estonia’s economy, which the two junior coalition partners claim is stagnant, is the main cause for the breakup.
But political observers in the country say the other parties have also grown tired of the long reign and style of the centre-right Reform party, which has led governments since 2005 and was part of every coalition for the past 17 years.
The crisis escalated earlier this week as the Social Democrats and IRL urged Mr Rõivas – at 37, one of Europe’s youngest heads of government – to resign, saying they had lost trust in his leadership and Reform’s economic policies.