esmaspäev, aprill 09, 2007

A Rose Revolution?

Rootsi analyst Vilhelm Konnander has hinted that the recent choice of Jüri Pihl as minister of the interior may portend future decisions by the unaffiliated to run as Social Democrats in Estonia, rather than as Reform, Center, Isamaa, or other candidates.

A surprise in the new cabinet is the inclusion of Jüri Pihl as Minister of the Interior. Pihl has previously headed the Estonian security police, and also been Prosecutor General. Until now, Pihl has been unpolitical, but will now represent the Social Democrats in cabinet, which further strengthens the impression of a coming SDE stronghold on Estonian politics.


What drives this logic? Well, there is the obvious question of what will follow the eventual unraveling of the rightwing coalition of Isamaa and Reform. I say eventual in that in parliamentary politics power usually swings between parties, although in Estonia either Reform or Isamaa-Res Publica have been in power since 1999 and perhaps before that too [help me out here guys].

The Social Democrats are uniquely positioned in that they 1) have experience in holding power; 2) are nationalist and eurofriendly enough to secure rightwing votes; 3) have a broad, internationally tested philosophical basis that makes it easier for them to reach out to marginalized voters -- such as Russian-speakers or the unemployed or the elderly -- that parties like Reform (the rich guys) and Isamaa (the patriotic guys) don't have.

It's interesting that in this last election almost every person I knew that wasn't voting for Isamaa-Res Publica was voting for the Social Democrats. Why? Because they seem like the most mainstream Estonian party -- and that's perhaps what Konnander is hinting at. They are the party that is easiest to belong too. Ivari Padar may not be the most charismatic guy, but he's also probably the hardest to hate, in the same way that some people hate Edgar Savisaar or think Mart Laar is a baffoon.

Finally, because of the party's structure and its lack of 'the charismatic leader' -- young aspiring politicians sense that enlisting in SDE's ranks could pay off. I mean if you join Keskerakond, then you'll just find yourself like Jüri Ratas, won't you? Edgar Savisaar decides that he wants to be mayor of Tallinn, so your tenure is up. Yuck. Nobody wants that! If you join Isamaa-Res Publica Liit then you better get in line behind Taavi Veskimägi if you want a job. The field is crowded. Reform? A lot of well qualified people already belong to that party. But SDE? There's room for growth and attention. It's an attractive alternative for those who wish to enter into public service.

SDE is in the unique position that it could basically adopt any policy and still look like SDE. Not a bad place to be.

9 kommentaari:

Kristjan ütles ...

A few remarks, here:
- This is the first time for SDE to be in government as that. Their previous government performance as Mõõdukad was, in the end, a disaster.
- Their philosophy is now decidedly left-wing (although not as much to the left as is usual in "old" Europe), which is as it should be. I don't think they'll ever get many right-wing votes - these will continue to go to Reform and IRL. Their voter, as I see it, will be the intelligent leftie who can't vote for Kesk for obvious reasons.
- I don't agree that SDE can adopt whatever policy and still be SDE. They very much need to be the "leftest" of the "whites", I think.

I'll probably never vote for SDE myself, but I value them highly because they're currently the least populist and most responsible party in Estonia IMO. I hope they keep it up, and I very much hope they'll take many votes away from Kesk at the next Riigikogu elections.

Finally, I don't think Konnander has really grasped the spirit of current developments in Estonia, so I would treat his opinions with a degree of skepticism.

Giustino ütles ...

Finally, I don't think Konnander has really grasped the spirit of current developments in Estonia, so I would treat his opinions with a degree of skepticism.

What was interesting was his take that Reform could form a government with Rahvaliit. It got me thinking about how -- on paper -- Rahvaliit looks like your typical nationalist, agrarian party but in Estonia -- on the "Estonian street" -- they are kind of seen as tainted for their pact with Keskerakond during the presidential elections.

Perhaps that is what you are getting at. I am still not sure why ERL is dying, but from my perspective -- of reading the news about things that matter to me -- Villu Reiljan's leadership of the party did not create broad appeal for ERL.

Giustino ütles ...

- I don't agree that SDE can adopt whatever policy and still be SDE. They very much need to be the "leftest" of the "whites", I think.

Well they are working with a government that has endorsed lowering the flat tax to 18 percent. So they obviously have a pretty strong pragmatic streak as a party. That led me to think that if they justified any policy in the pragmatic context, they might be able to get away with it -- so long as it made sense ;-)

Kristjan ütles ...

Rahvaliit ... tainted ... Perhaps that is what you are getting at.

Yes, that's certainly a major part of it.

As I understand it, Rahvaliit is strong and relatively solid in the municipalities, but I guess we all know how certain Rahvaliit members of government performed in Ansip's 1st.

If Reform didn't go for Kesk, why on earth would they go for Little-Kesk? :)

Although the difference, of course, is that while Kesk is rotten thoroughly, Rahvaliit is rotten only on the outside. Get rid of Villu and Jope-Ester (who is not so much corrupt as semu-kapitalistic), and you really do have quite a nice, solid party. (Well, might as well get rid of Janno as well, while you're at it. :P)

And then, of course, there's KeRa...

Kristjan ütles ...

So they [SDE] obviously have a pretty strong pragmatic streak as a party.

I think many of the compromises they have made in this coalition agreement come simply from the reality of desperately needing to be in government for the sake of survival and growth.

If their position had been stronger - and if it will be next time - I'm sure they'd stick to their guns with far greater vigour.

And at the moment, things are looking good for them, I'd say. They're in government with three very strong ministers - in a coalition that seems more likely to succeed than fail. I think Padar has played his cards perfectly, in fact.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Pihl is one of those shadowy guys who, like Kagan or Kristol in the US, are the ones who really wear the pants in Estonia. And -- he's one of the good guys. If Savisaar's goons Klandorf and Kulla were chaotic evil (the US neocons are simply alternate-reality), this guy is lawful good. Definitely unimpressive, though, but in a manner different from other unimpressivenesses. Too much time under fluorescents has dulled his charisma but in a steel cage match Pihl vs. Bronze Soldier -- it's currently Pihl 1:3.

Vilhelm Konnander ütles ...

Dear Giustino,

Your interpretation of my addendum to the piece I recently made on the new government in Estonia was really quite interesting. I had not really explicitly thought about that way, but I see your point. Thus, thanks for adding a perspectve!

As for Kristjan's comment that I have not "really grasped the spirit of current developments in Estonia, so I would treat his opinions with a degree of skepticism", I am sorry if he feels that I am out of touch with realities of Estonian politics. However, I am no way negative to input or learning, so if he has opinions on my interpretations, I can only urge him to comment on my blog. Perhaps, we might both learn something from an ensuing discussion.

Concerning the anonymous comment, it is quite obvious that Pihl is a representative of the so called "deep state", why I thought it quite remarkable that he opted for SDE.

Finally, I am happy that an addendum to a piece I wrote can create such discussion. Obviously, I hit it right somewhere, regardless of what might be held about my knowledge of Estonian politics.

Yours,

Vilhelm

Kristjan ütles ...

Vilhelm,

The blog entry in question was actually one of the major stimuli for me to start a blog of my own on Estonian affairs. I look forward to our future discussions, but first I'd like to invite you to read my take on the elections and what followed. I wouldn't want to rewrite it all to the comments section of your blog. :)

Anonüümne ütles ...

Reform or Isamaa-Res Publica have been in power since 1999 and perhaps before that too [help me out here guys].
Reform has governed from 1992 to 1995, then from 1995 to 1997 and since 1999 - today. Isamaa has governed from 1992 to 1995, then from 1999 to 2002. Res Publica has governed from 2003 to 2005. In 2006 Isamaa and Res Publica joined to Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit.