TALLINN - Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, whose ruling coalition topped the polls in the Baltic State’s election on Sunday, converted from communism to economic conservatism after the Soviet Union crumbled, reports AFP. In 2007 he had already achieved the feat of becoming the first Estonian prime minister to be returned to office in a general election since the republic won freedom in 1991 after five decades of communism.
Ansip came to power in April 2005 in a coalition government reshuffle, a year after Estonia joined the European Union. Ansip, who was economy minister, got the premiership after his Reform Party unseated incumbent Juhan Parts, despite being in coalition with Parts’ center-right Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, or IRL.
To become prime minister Ansip formed a coalition with the left-leaning Center Party. “Making Andrus Ansip prime minister is one of the biggest regrets of my life,” complained its leader Edgar Savisaar.
After winning the 2007 general election, Ansip formed a new government with IRL. His term has been marked by one of the sharpest recessions in the world, after a long economic boom ended abruptly. Estonia had a reputation for fiscal prudence even before the slump, posting regular budget surpluses and boasting the EU’s lowest government debt.
Ansip’s government brought in biting austerity measures as the crisis struck, in part to maintain Estonia’s drive to adopt the euro on Jan. 1 this year.
While his conservative stance divides Estonians, Ansip has won the respect of center-right EU peers. “Such leadership is a very important example, not only in our region, but for the whole of Europe,” said Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius.
Ansip was born on Oct. 1, 1956, in the southeastern city of Tartu. He graduated in chemistry there in 1979, and went on to become a local Communist Party organizational head. After independence, he began a business career.
In 1996, Ansip the athlete - who still competes in ski marathons worldwide - was involved in a serious road accident while training on a bicycle. “My attitude to life changed a lot after that. It ended my desire just to make money,” he said recently.
He was elected mayor of Tartu in 1998. In 2004, he entered the national arena as economy minister, and became the Reform Party’s leader.
His wife Anu, a doctor, works for a pharmaceutical company. The couple has three daughters, the eldest is a dentist, the second a journalist and the youngest is in school.