Estonia gets first female prime minister

Agence France-Presse . Tallinn | Published: 12:56, Jan 26,2021

 
 

The leader of the Reform Party, the future prime minister Kaja Kallas addresses the Estonian parliament, in Tallinn, Estonia, on January 25, 2021. — AFP photo

Pro-business europhile Kaja Kallas is to be Estonia’s first female prime minister after parliament on Monday voted in her new coalition.

Kallas, a 43-year-old former MEP and leader of the Reform Party, is the daughter of the Baltic state’s former prime minister Siim Kallas.

She will govern in a coalition with the Centre Party of outgoing prime minister Juri Ratas.

Her government will command 59 seats in Estonia’s 101-member parliament and won the backing of 70 MPs in Monday’s confidence vote after garnering support from the Social Democrats.

Speaking to parliament as the small Baltic eurozone state struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, Kallas vowed ‘to keep Estonia as open as possible, so that people could go to work, and children to school, and the economic activity could continue.’

She said that her ‘government will be like a tightrope walker over an abyss, always watching their balance’ between controlling the pandemic and allowing economic activity.

The new government will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Ratas resigned earlier this month after his party came under investigation for corruption.

The far-right EKRE party which had been in coalition with Ratas is now out of government.

Kallas’s party came first in parliamentary elections in 2019 but did not win an outright majority and then failed to build a coalition.

During her time at the European Parliament between 2014 and 2018, she was regularly included on lists of the most influential MEPs.

She is a passionate proponent of innovation who argues that regulations must not hinder the digital technological revolution.

Focused on the rights of small and medium-sized businesses, Kallas believes that borders in the digital world prevent innovative companies from emerging.

The Reform and Centre parties have alternated in government over the nearly three decades since Estonia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union.

Both strongly support Estonia’s EU and NATO membership, which they see as a buffer against Soviet-era master Russia.

They have favoured austerity to keep spending in check, giving the country of 1.3 million people one of the eurozone’s lowest debt-to-GDP ratios.

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