The Reform party’s six ministers — for foreign affairs, internal affairs, economics, transport and communications, education, and social affairs — resigned from the Estonian government on November 22, following a party council’s decision. Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and President Lennart Meri accepted the resignations. Vahi, whose Coalition party is the senior partner in the governing coalition, released Foreign Minister Siim Kallas from his post, effective immediately, while asking the other five outgoing ministers to continue as caretakers until a new government is formed. The Coalition party’s Riivo Sinijarv has been appointed acting foreign minister.
The government, comprised of the Coalition and Reform parties and the smaller Rural Union, has been in office for only 13 months. The Reform party, headed by Kallas, is considered the most consistent proponent of rapid market reforms among Estonia’s major parties.
Over the past few months, Vahi has publicly suggested that he can do better than Kallas in normalizing relations with Russia. Although Kallas had most recently worked with Vahi in making major concessions on the draft border agreement with Moscow, the Coalition party this month combined with the Center party and a Russian group to oust the Reform party and its allies at the head of Tallinn City Council. Vahi then signed an agreement with the Center party’s leader, former prime minister Edgar Savisaar, opening the door for its inclusion in the government. Such a government would rest on a questionable majority. The Russian parliamentary group is negotiating its support in exchange for concessions on relations with Russia and on domestic policies.
Savisaar, who is credited with engineering these realignments, had been ousted as internal affairs minister in October 1995 after being found responsible for illegal eavesdropping on senior politicians. He and his rump party have since been ostracized by responsible political forces, including, until now, Vahi and the Coalition party. (BNS, Radio Tallinn, Interfax, November 22-23)
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