Estonia: Anti-Mass Migration National Populists Join New Coalition Govt

Estonia
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The father-and-son leaders of an anti-immigration party were sworn in Monday as Estonia’s interior and finance minister.

Prime Minister Juri Ratas presented his 15-member coalition Cabinet on Monday at the 101-seat Riigikogu assembly.

Earlier this month, Ratas, leader of the left-leaning Centre Party, clinched a surprise deal with the nationalist and eurosceptic Estonian Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, as well as with the conservative Fatherland, to create a majority coalition.

EKRE’s Mart Helme was appointed interior minister in the Cabinet, while his son Martin becomes finance minister.

The party has advocated abolishing the law recognizing same-sex civil unions, demanded changes to the country’s abortion law, and fiercely opposed European Union quotas for taking in asylum seekers.

It emerged from the election with 17.8 per cent of votes, becoming Estonia’s third-largest party.

The three parties will have five ministerial posts each in the government. Fatherland’s Urmas Reinsalu became the new foreign minister and Juri Luik from the same party continues as defence minister — a key post in this small Baltic nation that neighbours Russia.

The fact that EKRE is entering a governing coalition has caused fierce debates nationwide, with some Estonians blaming it for polarising society.

The party claims to defend the interests of ethnic Estonians in the former Soviet republic where some 25 per cent of the 1.3 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians, who have traditionally opted to vote for the Centre Party.

A total of five parties are represented in parliament, including the Reform Party that was the biggest party after the March 3rd election. Its leader, Kaja Kallas, was first tasked to form a government, but she failed to get sufficient support.

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Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed to this report.

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