Estonia opposition party opts to start coalition talks

HELSINKI (AP) — A small conservative opposition party whose support is seen crucial in attempts to form a majority government in Estonia following the breakup of the governing center-right coalition earlier this month said Saturday that it will start power-sharing talks with two other parties.

After several days of speculation, the Isamaa — or “Fatherland” — party said it is would start talks to form a government coalition in the Baltic country with the opposition Social Democratic Party and governing center-right Reform Party led by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

On June 3, Estonian President Alar Karis dismissed — at the request of Kallas — the ministers of the Center Party from the two-party Cabinet following a dispute over welfare policy amid Estonia’s rampant inflation that is currently one of the highest in the eurozone.

The move left Kallas’ Reform Party party, which has 34 seats in the 101-seat Parliament, to govern alone in a minority Cabinet. Reform, the Social Democrats and the Isamaa party would together muster a comfortable 56-seat majority at the Riigikogu legislature.

Kallas praised Isamaa’s decision and said she hoped the parties would move forward rapidly to form a coalition in the next few weeks.

“The three parties have a strong common ground in creating a government that will bring Estonia through crises, strengthen our security and give people a sense of economic security,” Kallas said in a Facebook post.

Kallas has led her party since 2018 and became the first female prime minister of Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million, in January 2021.

Following the exit of the left-leaning Center Party from the government, options by the Reform Party — the winner of the 2019 election — to build a majority coalition remain limited as there are only five parties represented in parliament including the far-right EKRE party with whom Kallas has vowed not to cooperate.

The new government will be short-lived as Estonia is scheduled to hold a general election in March.

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