The new Estonian prime minister has vowed to restore the reputation of the Baltic nation after two turbulent years in which a far-right party was part of the country’s government.
“We will again strengthen our relations with our allies, our neighbors, and we will try to restore our name as a good country in which to invest,” Kaja Kallas told Reuters in Tallinn on Tuesday after taking the oath.
Kallas, 43, becomes the country’s first female prime minister since Estonia regained independence in 1991. The Reform Party, which she leads, won the most votes in the 2019 general election, but failed not been able to form a government, as a rival. The Center Party turned to the far right EKRE and another right wing party to form a controversial coalition, with Juri Ratas of the Center as prime minister.
This coalition has always been fragile and has been repeatedly shaken by the far-right rhetoric used by members of the EKRE government. In 2019, MP EKRE Ruuben Kaalep told the Guardian that the party’s agenda was to fight “replacement of the natives”, “the LGBT agenda” and “global ideological left hegemony”.
In December of that year, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid apologized to Finland, after Interior Minister Mart Helme, the leader of EKRE, mocked new Finnish minister Sanna Marin as of a “saleswoman”.
Last year, Kaljulaid convened the country’s security council to discuss Helme’s remarks calling then-US presidential candidate Joe Biden “corrupt.” She said the remarks could threaten Estonia’s alliances.
In the end, the Ratas government was overthrown not by EKRE’s rhetoric but by a corruption scandal. He resigned earlier in January and a new coalition has been formed between the Center and Reform parties, with seven posts each and Kallas as prime minister. The new cabinet will be in office for two years before a new election is scheduled for spring 2023.
Kallas, a former lawyer and MEP, is the daughter of Sim Kallas, who founded the Reform Party and served as Prime Minister in 2002-2003. She said gender balance was an important factor in the new cabinet, with many women appointed to key positions, including finance and foreign ministers.
Estonia is now one of the few countries where the head of state and government are women, although President Kaljulaid’s five-year term ends this year, and she has yet to announce whether she would run for another term.