The Tallinn riots and subsequent settling of the population of Estonia into distinct camps has seen the activity of two major political figures: the PM, Ansip, and the Tallinn mayor, Savisaar.
Savisaar is a political corpse: he gambled on the Russian vote and couldn't bring himself to cut his losses on April 27th, so now his credibility among the majority is lost forever. The Centrist Party never had a cohesive platform or ideology, it ran on the strength of Savisaar's personal charisma, the voters assured the Edgar himself is getting things done for their benefit. But now Savisaar is seen not just as a self-serving, nepotistic bastard, but as a collaborator, an agent of influence for the Kremlin. He's done in Estonian politics. The only hope for the Centrists is to disavow Savisaar and establish themselves as the mainstream left-wing force in the country.
Ansip has shown himself to be exactly what people suspected him to be before the elections: a competent manager, but a shite politician. Currently he is riding the wave of support, but it won't last; as soon as criticism of Ansip will cease to stink of bending to Moscow's will, the classic adage about an Estonian's favourite food being another Estonian will come into play. Ansip does not have the same stance within the Reform Party as Savisaar in his own sandbox, and since Reform are likely to want to retain their image of economy specialists (they can't out-patriot Isamaa, after all), Ansip will be pulled. He may not quite be done in politics - if Juhan Parts managed to sneak back into government, I imagine further reshuffles might see Ansip in the Finance Ministry or similar - but he's not going to be the first Estonian PM to serve a full term.
Which leaves Mart Laar. If the current government will crumble 2,5 years after the elections, as is the custom, the makeup of the parliament will make things very interesting indeed. For the Centrists to get into the coalition, they'd have to pull a move worthy of a contortionist on acid. Just being a major force in parliament isn't nearly enough, as Isamaa and Res Publica showed before the last general vote. By the same token, a coalition with a parliamentary majority can be lead by a minority PM: Ansip himself rose to the top job while his party had less seats than their coalition partner.
At the same time, Laar is the man to put the mess right. His anti-Russian credentials are unquestionable. He's an infinitely better statesman than Ansip. Between his own personal relationships with world leaders and Ilves's, Estonian foreign policy would thrive. When Ansip refused to give him the Foreign Minister post, Laar showed genius insight by stepping aside; throughout the riots and subsequent fallout in Estonian-Russian elections, he had no formal affiliation with the ruling government; he didn't even go "I told you so!" much.
Laar has the capacity and the credit to restore the country's relations with Russia - especially a post-Putin Russia, if it doesn't go entirely totalitarian - and we can hope that he has the insight to do it, too.
An interesting question is how exactly he could pull it off. A coalition reshuffle is possible, but I don't think Reform will give up the top job that easily. However, if the young guns in the Centrist party really do dethrone Edgar, a deal is not entirely implausible. Between them the Centrists and IRL have only 48 votes, but the farmers still have their 6 seats, and a traditional loyalty to Team Savisaar. A Laar-led coalition could certainly entice the Social Democrats, and the Greens appear to still have a standing offer of joining anyone who makes Marek Strandberg the Environmental Minister. It would be very typical of Estonian politics in general for the party that won the parliamentary elections to end up in opposition four years down the line.
Reflections on the latest disturbances
1 month ago