Estonian PM Ratas resigns awaiting corruption charges

File photo. Estonia Prime Minister Juri Ratas arrives for a two-days face-to-face European Council summit, in Brussels, Belgium, 15 October 2020. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas resigned on Wednesday (13 January) after an enquiry into a property development project in the capital which could see him accused of corruption.

“Prime Minister Jüri Ratas informed President Kersti Kaljulaid of his resignation,” the government said in a statement.

Ratas, who has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, will need to formally announce his resignation at a government session on Thursday and also notify parliament.

According to an official press release the president Kersti Kaljulaid will make later on Wednesday an offer to the Head of Reform Party (Renew Europe) Kaja Kallas to become the candidate for Prime Minister and to begin forming a new functioning government on Thursday.

“We do not have time in the current crisis situation to wait for the formal deadlines and to stretch time without good reason. Estonian people do not have time for it. I will meet with Kaja Kallas again already today, to discuss the situation”, Kaljulaid is quoted as saying.

News wire BNS said Ratas’ party was declared suspect on Tuesday in a criminal investigation over a property development project in Tallinn.

“While there definitely are other ways to go about it, only one of them seemed to be right,” Ratas told reporters, according to BNS.

He made the decision to resign after a party meeting on Tuesday to discuss the charges, which dragged into the early hours of Wednesday, BNS added.

Prosecutors allege the development was promised permission to build a road on city property, in exchange for a donation of up to €1 million to the party ahead of municipal elections, BNS reported.

Ratas, prime minister since late 2016, lost the 2019 general election, in which the Reform Party emerged the biggest party.

He then blocked the winner from taking power by forming a surprise coalition of his left-leaning Centre (Renew Europe), the conservative Fatherland party (EPP) and the far-right EKRE (Identity and Democracy) that gave the three parties a majority in parliament.

According to constitution, the candidate for prime minister must, within 14 days after being tasked with forming a new government, present the bases for the formation of the future government to the Parliament, after which the MPs must decide, without debate and by a public vote, whether to authorize the candidate for prime minister to form a government.

The candidate for prime minister who is authorized by the Parliament to form a government must, within seven days, present the members of the government to the president, who must appoint the government to office within three days.

Estonia’s next general election is due in March 2023.

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