Thursday, December 17, 2009

Over at Keith and the Girl, the inimitable Patrice mentioned how Tiger Woods was particularly unwise/unfortunate to become the center of attention in December, because this is the time when nothing interesting happens. If you do anything wrong, you're the center of attention.

One person who didn't get the memo is Jüri Pihl, leader of the Social Democrats and former government minister, now the deputy mayor of Tallinn. With his party booted out of the coalition and forced into a subservient position under the Centrist control of the capital (SDE's only chance to stay even remotely relevant in Estonian politics until 2011), Pihl seems to have lost touch with reality. Following an inquiry into a minor diplomatic scandal, he submitted an application to the KaPo security service asking them to investigate the Prime Minister, Justice Minister and Foreign Minister on suspicion of treason.

The scandal at the core of events is the case of Sergei Markov, a Russian politician of dubious renoun, who claimed the credit for the DDoS attacks that considerably inconvenienced Estonian government websites following the April '07 riots. Markov's public statements earned him a ban on entry into Estonia, and by extension, any Schengen state (including the bulk of the EU). But even though Markov is a bit unpleasant, he does hold a seat in the Russian parliament, and may occasionally have legitimate business in Brussels. For whatever political reason, the government decided to lift Markov's Schengen exclusion. The decision was executed this summer, when Justice Minister Rein Lang briefly acted as head the Interior Ministry (which is responsible for visa bans) following the ejection of the Social Democrats from the cabinet. The events became public, and the papers seized the opportunity to poke at the government.

Pihl, who was the one to originally ban Markov while serving as Interior Minister, apparently took it personally. After having been questioned by KaPo as part of their inquiry into the Markov case, he submitted a written request to the counter-intelligence service, asking them to investigate PM Ansip, JM Lang and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on charges of treason.

The document itself was leaked, apparently by the Justice Minister. The state prosecutor's office has confirmed that Lang is free to do anything he wants with a statement accusing him of a crime, including making it public. A scan of Pihl's original submission to KaPo was published on the Postimees website; I've re-hosted it here, just in case. Judge for yourself if Pihl's claim has any merit - but the Social Democrats of Estonia are convening an emergency session on Friday night, where there's a good chance that Pihl will be booted from the party chair.

My take on it? Pihl was trying to ingratiate himself to Edgar Savisaar, adopting his style, but gravely misjudged the methods and made himself look like a moron in the process.

1 comment:

Giustino said...

With his party booted out of the coalition and forced into a subservient position under the Centrist control of the capital (SDE's only chance to stay even remotely relevant in Estonian politics until 2011)

To be fair, they were in a subservient position prior in the coalition as well. Since they consider Center and Reform to be equally corrupt (and they probably are, though the dailies, especially Postimees, tries its best to make Reform look squeaky clean), they essentially went from working with one racket to another.

But Pihl is an interesting character. He's an attention getter, sure, but how he wound up fronting Marju Lauristin's party is a big question. If he gets booted, it won't be just because of this incident.

At the same time, the whole matter does seem a little stinky. Just as it shows Pihl may have made a big mistake, it also shows the current leadership and their minority government (and they are only in power because nobody else can put a government together) is not going down without a fight. Because when Reform is really out of power, it's going to be for a long time. And nobody wants to lose their job, especially during a recession.


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