Chairman of the Social Democrat Party (SDE) Jevgeni Ossinovski said in late January that the government is done making fundamental decisions and development has been put on hold. It now turns out that the government’s health has deteriorated further, and a recovery is no longer in the stars – the government failed to reach consensus concerning the UN Global Compact for Migration, which means Estonia will not be joining.
The situation boils down to a virtual government crisis where SDE wants one thing, Pro Patria another, and where Prime Minister Jüri Ratas was too busy handing out candy bars at a campaign event at the Baltic Station to take a stand. Whereas it is not a question of a single party’s election promise but a work-related matter that required a decision.
The time before elections is difficult for any government, but the current triumvirate, created by ousting the Reform Party, couldn’t even wait until campaign lists were in before self-destructing.
Governments unusually stay together until someone has an alternative. This might not be the case this time. Seats in the Riigikogu are tilted in the government’s favor though, and no one is keen on taking over just four months before elections. The coalition partners know this.
The migration compact decision will not make things easier. A government that has given up searching for consensus in one matter is more likely to do it again. Until agreements are no longer sought, and everyone gets busy working on their campaign. The sides meet a few times a week at cabinet or government sittings, but the mood is that of an annoying relative’s birthday party.
The opposition has tasted blood and will throw everything it can at the government. Indecisiveness, inability to compromise, damage done to Estonia’s reputation, putting Estonia alongside Hungary and Poland, caving to pressure from the opposition – everything goes.
It is also worth recalling that the state budget, the government’s single most important law, is still in the Riigikogu. Perhaps Center’s partners will suddenly discover in it something that rubs them the wrong way? Arguments over the government’s regional investments (read: protection money) will surely begin anew as the Social Democrats are not likely to let Pro Patria get away with funding its foundations.
Further decay in the government cannot be ruled out either. Why would SDE, especially Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, continue in the government? Ratas accepted his candidacy so he would take care of things on the foreign front. The UN compact was in his administrative area.
Yesterday’s decision shows that Mikser does not have the prime minister’s support as the government’s search for consensus ended in a victory for Pro Patria. Why should Mikser trust Ratas again?
Governments do not usually go down in major scandals; minor injuries tend to prove fatal instead. Work to tear down the previous government started with recalling politicians from the supervisory boards of state companies.