Estonia’s PM seeks new governing partners after coalition breakdown

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is set to start talks with potential new coalition partners after her center-right Reform Party’s alliance with the Center Party broke down on Friday over welfare and education reforms. 

Kallas, who has led Estonia since 2021 and drawn international attention for her hard line on Russia, said she could no longer work with the Center Party and its leader Juri Ratas in the wake of his push for a €300 million spending plan for family and child benefits, a plan that she opposes. The Center and Reform parties have also clashed over how pre-school education should be organized.

Kallas criticized the Center Party for contributing to political instability at a time when the Estonian government was trying to navigate the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Estonia, now more than ever before, needs a functioning government based on common values,” Kallas said, national broadcaster ERR reported. “The security situation in Europe does not give me any opportunity to continue cooperating with the Center Party, which is unable to put Estonia’s interests above those of the party and its various factions.” 

Kallas has already been in contact with the Social Democrats and the Isamaa party about forming a new coalition, ERR said. Reform controls 34 seats in the 101-seat Estonian parliament while Isamaa has 12 and the Social Democrats 10, which would give the three-party grouping a slim majority. 

But other coalitions are possible, which could spell the end of Kallas’ time as prime minister. 

The leader of the far-right EKRE, Martin Helme, appeared to suggest on Friday that his party could team up with Center and Isamaa and return to power. 

That three-way coalition ran Estonia between 2019 and 2021. 

“I remain open to ideas,” Helme said.

The next scheduled election is in 2023. 

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