Kallas becomes Estonia’s first female PM, far right out of government

File photo. Leader of the Estonian Reform Party, Kaja Kallas attends a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia, 5 March 2019. [Valda Kalnina/EPA/EFE]

Kaja Kallas of the Reform party (Renew Europe) became Estonia’s first female prime minister on Monday (25 January) after parliament approved her nomination following predecessor Jüri Ratas’ resignation over an inquiry into a property development.

Kallas, born in 1977, is a former Member of the European Parliament from 2014 to 2018, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. She is the daughter of Siim Kallas who served as Prime Minister of Estonia and was later a European Commissioner (2004-2014).

Her cabinet will take its oath of office on Tuesday, marking the end of the far-right EKRE party’s spell in the governing coalition in the European Union nation of 1.3 million people.

Kallas, who had ruled out taking over the government with EKRE still in it, has pledged not to define marriage strictly as a union between a man and woman, which was a signature policy of the far right. In another shift, she has promised to bar any further investment in the fossil fuel industry.

“The first thing we are going to deal with is the health crisis,” Kallas said on Monday, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic, BNS wire reported. “Our goal is to keep Estonia as open as possible so that people can go to work, children to school and economic activities to continue.”

Ratas’ Centre party (Renew Europe) remains in the government as Reform’s partner, despite corruption charges filed by prosecutors who allege the party’s general secretary agreed to a donation of up to 1 million euros from a businessman in exchange for a permit to build on public land. Ratas denies knowledge of any wrongdoing by his party.

Estonian PM Ratas resigns awaiting corruption charges

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.

The Reform party, which won the 2019 election but was outmanoeuvred by Ratas, will have only seven of 15 ministers in the two-party cabinet, according to a list published by the Estonian public broadcaster.

Six ministers are women and eight are in their 30s or 40s, including the 43-year old Kallas. Ratas is not in the new cabinet but remains Centre party chief.

The Baltic republic’s next general election is scheduled for early 2023.

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