Shadow of Stalin

  • 2005-03-16
Estonia still has a long way to go when it comes to overcoming hypocrisy and double standards in politics. The scandal surrounding Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher is one more case in point. Stable coalitions that can peacefully endure the full, four-year office term, are something this country only hopes to be blessed with.

As The Baltic Times went to press, MPs from the Reform Party, the People's Union and other parties were making the final preparations for a no-confidence vote on Justice Minister Vaher, which could result in the collapse of Juhan Parts' Cabinet.

One can only guess why the key politicians, who posed themselves as human rights crusaders after Vaher's anti-corruption program received wide publicity last week and was criticized by some as being Stalin-like, didn't speak out several months ago when the program was being shaped by experts. Besides, police and tax authorities have been using an almost identical indicator system to disclose and solve certain types of crimes - including corruption - for a year already.

Vaher, a 30-year-old graduate of Tartu University - the best law school in Estonia - is one of the half a dozen young Res Publica members to market themselves as "The Unbribables" during the 2003 general elections. The party was gambling that "new politics" would win the hearts and minds of voters.

Indeed, it had won Res Publica a major portion of parliamentary seats, and the party eventually became the main player in the three-party coalition. Yet problems started as soon as the new government was sworn in. Former Finance Minister and current Tallinn Mayor Tonis Palts was forced to resign after putting nasty pressure on the Tax Board investigating his old business deals. Then Vaher had to mumble an apology for a number of speeding tickets. But the icing on the cake was controversy over the poorly organized removal of a freedom fighter monument in Lihula. Res Publica's "new politics" didn't look so new after all.

With local elections, scheduled for October 2005, looming, Res Publica had to step cautiously. Success at municipal elections, especially in Tallinn, means a huge leap on the way to the prime minister's office. But the heavyweights of Estonian politics - or virtually every party, given that Res Publica is still a rookie - just could not allow the latter to have solid starting grounds. The corruption indicators were apparently no more than a convenient opportunity to steam roll over Res Publica's image.