Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 111

Prime minister Tiit Vahi tendered his resignation to president Lennart Meri October 11 and to parliament October 12 after he led his Coalition Party and its partner Agrarian Union out of the coalition government. The two parties could no longer cooperate with their partner in government, the Center Party, which refused to recall its leader Edgar Savisaar from his posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Internal Affairs Minister despite revelations of his role in secret taping of ministers´ and opposition politicians´ conversations. Vahi then relieved Savisaar, and Meri dismissed him. Meri has described the affair as "a crisis of the democratic state" and called for urgent steps to restore Estonia´s reputation as a law-based state. Vahi, who is expected to stay on as prime minister, has invited the opposition Reform Party, second largest in parliament and deemed "rightist," to join the Coalition Party and Agrarian Union in government, in place of the Center Party which is classified as left-of-center. A government of this makeup would enjoy a comfortable majority in parliament. (8)

Savisaar has a distinguished political career behind him as chairman of the Estonian Popular Front and prime minister at the height of the country´s campaign for independence in 1991. He was the second most senior figure in the now outgoing government, which came to office after the March 1995 elections. The "taping affair" unfolded after police discovered the tapes September 29 at a private security agency with which Savisaar had personal connections. Evidence uncovered afterward led to the conclusion that Savisaar was responsible for the taping. He finally resigned as party leader and quit politics October 11.

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