Opposition's next target is PM

  • 2001-03-15
  • TBT staff
TALLINN - The opposition Center Party is aiming to continue its relentless campaign of no-confidence votes in Estonia's Cabinet ministers, and will probably next focus on Prime Minister Mart Laar.

"Yes, it's in the air," general secretary of the Center Party Kullo said on the evening of March 12, a few hours after Transport and Communications Minister Toivo Jurgenson narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence handed in by 44 opposition deputies (see TBT page 3).

Arjakas admitted that the last straw in favor of taking Laar to task was the report defense forces commander Tarmo Kouts published on the same day. This established beyond a shadow of doubt that the prime minister took part in shooting practice using a photograph of Edgar Savisaar, chairman of the Center Party and Laar's long-standing rival, two years ago.

"But there has been an accumulation of a lot of things that cast doubt on Laar and the government he heads," Arjakas added. He refused to forecast when a no-confidence vote in the prime minister might be handed in.

Chairman of the People's Party Villu Reiljan said, however, that such a vote will be followed by attempts to shake the positions of several other ministers. "Take Mihkel Parnoja, for example, the man who heads the privatization agency supervisory council," Reiljan said.

Arjakas said that off-the-record many members of the ruling coalition had expressed concerns over the privatization of Estonian railway Eesti Raudtee and Jurgenson's role in it. "But that concern does not mean they vote with us," Arjakas said.

"Jurgenson may do it in a way that politically suits him better, not through a vote of no confidence, which would make considerably worse cracks in the coalition," Arjakas ventured.

It has been reported in the Estonian press that Jurgenson is the leader of one wing of the Pro Patria Union, with Laar the most influencial figure in another wing and Mayor of Tallinn Juri Mois in a third wing.

Chairman of the coalition council, Andres Tarand, also a member of the Moderates, declared that parties of the ruling coalition will by no means support any of the opposition's no-confidence votes against Cabinet ministers.

People's Party faction member Jaanus Mannik toned down the rhetoric at a press conference March 13. He said there was no concrete agreement in the opposition yet.

"We are optimistic that the government seems to be taking some steps by itself to improve matters. Only then will we decide on any concrete measures."