Monday, November 16, 2009

Ansip Grows Balls Once Irrelevant

Tangent: the previous post was number 500 on AnTyx. A little over four years down. Not going to celebrate terribly, but still a nice little anniversary. Also, since Baltlantis seems to have gone the way of the dodo, this article also appears on the Estonian Free Press; I've turned off the comments here, so go to EFP to leave feedback.

Interesting article in Postimees this morning. Interview with the Prime Minister, who has some things to say about his main political rival, Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar.

Speaking to the paper, PM Ansip called on Savisaar to apologize for his claims that the Estonian kroon would be devalued right after the election, and that senior citizen benefits would be cut. Savisaar had said on public record, in his own articles, that he was completely sure it would happen - so now he ought to either apologize, or explain why his predictions didn't come true. Ansip also publically questioned the publicity stunt of purchasing half a million kroons' worth of potatoes and firewood to hand out to Tallinn's poor, and then spending two million kroons on advertising the fact. Ansip also mentioned that Savisaar's claims were directly contradicted not only by objective reality, but by the opinions of the IMF, the European Commission, the Moody's rating agency* and The Economist magazine.

Bold words from the Prime Minister, and the kind of adversarial debate that Estonia's politics - and particularly the right-wing parties - sorely need. All the more baffling that it comes after the coalition utterly failed in Tallinn's municipal elections. Where was Ansip during the campaign? Why wasn't stuff like this on Reform's campaign posters? If Savisaar made the local election all about national politics, and fully exploited his position as the capital's incumbent mayor, then why wasn't Ansip out there, actively attacking the Centrists' statements, policy and record?

Not that I'm calling for more ad hominem attacks and name-calling in election campaigns - but Ansip seems to be talking about factual errors, broken promises and disingenuous claims. The sort of thing that you would expect to be shouted from the rooftops before the elections - back when it could make a difference.

Without being an inner-circle Reform strategist, I can only think of two points. One, the coalition has given up ground in hope for a better attack opportunity in 2011. I have a sneaking suspicion that Reform's next prime-ministerial candidate will be Andres Lipstok, who, as the head of the Bank of Estonia, will have a tremendous platform should the country succeed in adopting the Euro a year from now - just before the next parliamentary elections. In order to secure the top job, Reform is willing to give Savisaar all the rope he needs to hang himself; and if we fail to get the Euro, the coalition will certainly make a powerful stab at blaming Tallinn's excessive borrowing for driving up the budget deficit past the Maastricht boundaries. Remember, Mart Laar was incredibly fortunate to get left out from Ansip's cabinet, and thus escape any of the blame for the Bronze Soldier debacle; did the Reform Party, knowing that they were very unlikely to get control of the capital, throw the fight in order to make the capital's voters blame Savisaar for all their ills 15 months from now? Of course, I am probably giving them too much credit.

The other point is based on the same assumptions. Ansip knows he will not survive another direct election, he will not be Prime Minister after 2011, and the only reason why his government still scrapes together enough dissenting opposition votes to push legislation through the Riigikogu is because he's the consensus scapegoat. Given this, is Ansip really that motivated to apply his entire effort in support of Keit Pentus and the party whips?

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*Not that financial rating agencies are relevant in 2009. But hey, the article mentioned it.

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