esmaspäev, mai 19, 2008

the road ahead

There's a funny sort of consensus being reached among Estonians these days, and that is that when it comes to the termination of the current ruling coalition, the question is not if, but when, and perhaps also, how.

It's hard to put ones figure on when this malaise set in. It could have been lurking even prior to parliamentary elections in March 2007. The removal of the Bronze Soldier and the ensuing rioting {and gray sanctions and cyber warfare} brought about some sort of solidarity with the government. But now, a year plus later, that solidarity is starting to wear off, and the widely advertised fact that the Estonian economy grew by 0.4 percent in the first quarter has people spooked.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's liberal Reform Party still enjoys the most support of the public. But at the same time the coalition of conservatives and social democrats is looking more pre-election than post. Finance Minister Ivari Padar (SDE) is staking out next year's anticipated budget shortfall as an issue where the sotsid can look like the pragmatists. Meantime, Mart Laar continues to brandish his foreign policy credentials, making some perhaps regret he was not made foreign minister last year.

The transit sector is, as you can imagine, the most sour on the government. Former PM Tiit Vähi has in several articles called for Ansip to step down. Interestingly, when asked who should lead a new, more technocratic government, he rattled off the names of Laar, Padar, and Juhan Parts.

However, the thing is that, with the economy slowing and several outstanding issues -- Russian relations among them -- yet to be solved, nobody wants to take over right now. They'd probably prefer to let it marinate for as long as possible, maybe until there are signs of improvement for which they can take credit.

I still think, though, that the current government could accomplish something before its number is up. Regional reform, for example, is an issue that requires bravery and a willingness to act. There is talk of reducing Estonia's 15 counties to four regions, and its 227 municipalities to between 60 and 80 parishes. While such reform would take years to accomplish, it might make some sense to push the issue. What does the current government have to lose?

* the photo was taken outside of Kunda last weekend.

18 kommentaari:

antyx ütles ...

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's liberal Reform Party

Maybe worth mentioning that it's economically liberal, which is to say right-wing in the traditional classification. :)

Beyond what you're saying, Ansip isn't really well-liked by any other political figures, so they're happy to keep him in for as long as they can, just to pile on as much blame as possible.

I was looking at a recent Postimees where they asked the party leaders what their suggestions are to stimulate the economy. Ansip's refrain is loosening up labour laws, which may or may not achieve the desired effect, but is a fucking unpopular move. Then again, Savisaar seems out of ideas completely - his response was "more taxes and borrowing money if we have to".

Giustino ütles ...

Maybe worth mentioning that it's economically liberal, which is to say right-wing in the traditional classification. :)

Ansip is in Peru right now, singing the praises of liberalism. I just don't get it. It's like they {liberals} have one ideology, and answers to all questions are to be found in that one ideology. Whatever happened to Keynesian economics?

Then again, Savisaar seems out of ideas completely - his response was "more taxes and borrowing money if we have to".

I have a feeling that some people in Keskerakond are beginning to feel the same way about Savisaar as some people in Reform feel about the prime minister.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I don't know enough about Estonian internal politics to make much of an informed comment - so apologies in advance (!). But, would regional reform be uncontentious?

We're going through it here in Finland right now, with municipal mergers and restructuring etc etc. As you say, it takes a very long time. Plus, it does not really endear politicians with the people. It's almost dangerous for them, with often the people of Municipality A having some kind of rivalry with their neighbours in Municipality B making them naturally opposed to a merger where the people of B might get to much say over their local affairs. Then it, of course, can lead to a total rejig of the electorate in each municipality. What once might have been a stronghold for one political party suddenly gets watered down with a merger.

In extreme cases, they can't even decide what name to call the new entity, as I reported in one case here a few weeks ago (incidentally, they still haven't decided)

So, would the starting of such a reform process actually risk stirring up yet more negativity around the governing parties, rather than distracting the electorate or giving the image of renewal?

How centred on the rural areas is the Estonian Centre Party? (I ask because our Centre party has its roots in the non-urban areas). Could it not even capitalise in any regional reform as a 'defendant' of the rural municipalities' independence?

Unknown ütles ...

The outcome of municipality elections 2005 was like this: (party | votes | percentage)

Eesti Keskerakond 126449 25,48%
Eesti Reformierakond 83953 16,91%
Eestimaa Rahvaliit 61871 12,47%
Erakond Isamaaliit 42566 8,58%
Erakond Res Publica 42004 8,46%

But yes, the forceful merging of municipalities probably would make the government extremely unpopular. I know merging West and East Virumaa with the center in Jõhvi would make the government really unpopular for me. Although that is already gradually happening.

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Four regions is current reality of concentration of state administrative unit's local branches.
Still I think that county level should be electable, current municipalities are way too small. We may debate whether 80 could be optimal number of municipalities or could it be 15. Sounds logical if municipalities surrounding cities, join into single unit - as main infrastructure is really common to a large extent. Some smaller county-centers like Rapla or Jõgeva shouldn't be cities at all. Maybe optimum could become something like 30 units with elected councils.

Unknown ütles ...

Actually the regional reform confuses me a bit. Okay, for example Jõhvi was united with Jõhvi parish some years ago. Does that mean Jõhvi is not a town anymore? Or is it not a town only in the governmental sense? Is it still a town in principal? If Tartu and some parish around Tartu would unite, would Tartu not be considered as a town? Or is it just a legal thing?

Unknown ütles ...


Giustino ütles ...

If Tartu and some parish around Tartu would unite, would Tartu not be considered as a town? Or is it just a legal thing?

How about the fictional city of Kohtla-Järve which mysteriously includes Ahtme but not Jõhvi which is closer to the real Kohtla-Järve than Ahtme.

See, there could be benefits to this, too.

Jim Hass ütles ...

With advance apologies about my ignorance of local politics, I have to say that Ansip is not the only critic of Estonian labor law. Just look at the world bank's survey "Doing business around the world" the Fraser institute or even the EU surveys.

While labor law reform maybe unpopular, nothing seems to be more illiberal about Estonian economic policy. Extremely illiberal. Almost the most burdensome in the world. Are the workers in Denmark (number four or five in most World bank lists) really so much more exploited than Estonians (number 154)?

The Popular Party in Spain was able to lower unemployment, while providing new jobs by lessening restrictions on temporary jobs.

Lowering the risk of hiring for an employer lowers the risks of labor mobility and change.

Maybe just a few things could improve what looks like the only real negative to a foreign investor, while leaving considerable protections in place.

martintg ütles ...

I reckon if the government wants to reform the municipalities, bring back the ancient Estonian counties
And for that matter, let's bring back the old Estonian words for the months of the year as well!

martintg ütles ...

martintg ütles...
And for that matter, let's bring back the old Estonian words for the months of the year as well!

Let's give the latin based calendar the boot, and make these the official month names:
1. näärikuu
2. küünlakuu
3. paastukuu
4. jürikuu
5. lehekuu
6. jaanikuu
7. heinakuu
8. lõikuskuu
9. mihklikuu
10. viinakuu
11. talvekuu
12. jõulukuu

Giustino ütles ...

I like "leaf month" and "hay month"!

Rainer ütles ...

What about "vodka month", Giustino? :P

Kristopher ütles ...

Dandelion month is giving way to Lilac month.

puolimieli ütles ...

Does "viinakuu" really mean "booze month" as in Finnish?

plasma-jack ütles ...

of course. it would seem logical that after autumn harvest it's time to make some vodka.

Kristopher ütles ...

And drink it. Hey, I like this short comment thing.

Ain Kendra ütles ...

Yeah, drink some liquid comments