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Estonian president appoints new govt featuring far-right

By AFP
media Juri Ratas (Center Party) leaves the venue after being reappointed as Prime Minister of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia AFP

Estonia's president on Wednesday appointed Juri Ratas to a second term as prime minister of the Baltic state, where he will head a new three-party coalition government featuring the far-right for the first time.

Commanding a total of 56 seats in the 101-seat parliament, Ratas's left-leaning Centre Party, the conservative Isamaa and far-right EKRE will each get five ministerial posts.

"This will not be a stagnant government. It will be a government that will break many things in Estonia," EKRE chairman and future interior minister Mart Helme told reporters.

"It will break many budget cliches, it will change many views that seem to have fossilised in Estonian politics."

The prospect of a government with politicians from the eurosceptic EKRE, which is known for its populist rhetoric and anti-migrant stance, had earlier stirred a public outcry including street protests.

President Kersti Kaljulaid had tasked Ratas with forming a government after her first choice Kaja Kallas -- leader of the liberal Reform Party that won the March general election -- lost a vote of confidence.

Ratas, whose Centre Party came in second in the March 3 ballot and is backed by the Russian-speaking minority, declined Kallas's invitation to hold coalition talks.

Instead the party signed a coalition agreement with the conservatives and the far-right, a move widely criticised across the country.

Kaljulaid told reporters on Tuesday that she had met with the ministerial candidates who had aroused controversy and decided they pose no threat to Estonian security.

When asked what would happen if Helme continued to use the kind of divisive rhetoric he had promised to abandon, Kaljulaid replied that several ministers in the past have had to resign because of comments they made.

"The elections were fair and transparent and any government supported by the parliament's majority is legitimate and represents the will of the people," Kaljulaid added on Wednesday.

The new cabinet is due to be sworn in before parliament on Monday.

 
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