Estonian Reform Party
|Estonian Reform Party
|Founded||18 November 1994|
|Youth wing||Estonian Reform Party Youth|
|International affiliation||Liberal International|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|European Parliament group||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|Colours||Yellow and blue|
|Politics of Estonia
The Estonian Reform Party (Estonian: Eesti Reformierakond) is a liberal pro-free market political party in Estonia. The party is led by current Prime Minister of Estonia Taavi Rõivas, and has 33 members in the 101-member Riigikogu, making it the largest party in the legislature. The Reform Party has participated in the government of Estonia for all but three years since its foundation in 1994.
The party was founded by then-President of the Bank of Estonia Siim Kallas as a split from National Coalition Party Pro Patria. At the 1995 election, it won 19 seats in the Riigikogu, making it the second largest party. The Reform Party replaced the Estonian Centre Party in government in autumn 1995, and remained there until 1996. In 1999, the party lost a seat, but returned to the cabinet in coalition with the Pro Patria Union and the People's Party Moderates. The party has remained in various coalitions since then, with Andrus Ansip as Prime Minister since 2005. At the 2007 election, the party won 31 seats, becoming the largest party for the first time, and increased its seat tally again in 2011, with 33 seats.
As the Reform Party has participated in most of the government coalitions in Estonia since the mid-1990s, its influence has been great, especially regarding Estonia's free market and low taxes policies. The party has been a full member of Liberal International since 1996, having been an observer member between 1994–1996, and a full member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party. The founder and the first chairman of the Reform Party, Siim Kallas, has been since 2004 a Commissioner of the European Commission. He is also one of the five Vice Presidents of the Barroso Commission.
The Estonian Reform Party was founded on 18 November 1994, joining together the Reform Party — a then-recent splinter from the National Coalition Party Pro Patria — and the Estonian Liberal Democratic Party. The new party, which had 710 members at its foundation, was led by Siim Kallas, who had been President of the Bank of Estonia and uninvolved in politics. Kallas was untainted by association with Mart Laar's government, but was widely seen as a proficient central bank governor, having overseen the successful introduction of the Estonian kroon. The party formed ties with the Free Democratic Party of Germany, the Liberal People's Party of Sweden, Finland's Swedish People's Party, and Latvia's Latvian Way.
In the party's first parliamentary election, in March 1995, it won 19 seats: catapulting it into second place, behind the Coalition Party. Tiit Vähi tried to negotiate a coalition with the Reform Party, but the talks broke down over economic policy, with the Reform Party opposing agricultural subsidies and supporting the maintenance of Estonia's flat-rate income tax, While the Coalition Party formed a new government with the Centre Party at first, a taping scandal involving Centre Party leader Edgar Savisaar led to the Reform Party replacing the Centre Party in the coalition in November 1995. Kallas was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs, with five other Reform Party members serving in the cabinet. The Reform Party left the government in November 1996 after the Coalition Party signed a cooperation agreement with the Centre Party without consulting them.
At the 1999 election, the Reform Party dropped one seat to 18, finishing third behind the Centre Party and the conservative Pro Patria Union. The ER formed a centre-right coalition with the Pro Patria Union and the Moderates, with Mart Laar as Prime Minister and Siim Kallas as Minister of Finance, and with Toomas Savi returned as Speaker. Although the coalition was focused on EU and NATO accession, the Reform Party successfully delivered its manifesto pledge to abolish corporate tax: one of its most notable achievements. After the October 1999 local elections, the three parties replicated their alliance in Tallinn.
The party served in government again from March 1999 to December 2001 in a tripartite government with Pro Patria Union and People's Party Moderates, from January 2002 to March 2003 with the Estonian Centre Party, from March 2003 to March 2005 with Res Publica and People's Union, from March 2005 to March 2007 with the Centre Party and People's Union, from March 2007 to May 2009 with Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and the Social Democratic Party. Since May 2009 the Reform Party are in a minority government with Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica.
Ansip has been prime minister of Estonia since April, 2005, and several other cabinet members, including Urmas Paet, are members of the party.
- The party supports Estonian 0% corporate tax on re-invested income and wants to eliminate the dividend tax.
- The party wanted to cut flat income tax rate from 22% (in 2007) to 18% by 2011. Due to economic crisis the campaign for cutting income tax rate was put on hold with the tax rate at 21% in 2008 and 2009.
- The party used to oppose VAT general rate increase until late spring 2009 when it changed its position in the light of dire economic crisis and the need to find more money for budget. VAT was increased from 18% to 20% on 1 July 2009.
- The party wants eventually to end conscription and introduce a voluntary army.
The party is supported predominantly by young, well-educated, urban professionals. Unlike the Centre Party, which has disproportionate appeal amongst the Russian minority, and the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, which is overwhelmingly backed by ethnic Estonians, the Reform Party attracts votes from equally across populations. The Reform Party's vote base is heavily focused in the cities; although it receives only one-fifth of its support from Tallinn, it receives three times as many votes from other cities, despite them being home to fewer than 40% more voters overall.
Its voter profile is significantly younger than average, while its voters are well-educated, with the fewest high school drop-outs of any party. Its membership is the most male-dominated of all the parties, yet it receives the support of more female voters than average. Reform Party voters also tend to have higher incomes, with 43% of Reform Party voters coming from the top 30% of all voters by income.
The Reform Party has been a full member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (formerly the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, ELDR) since December 1998. In the European Parliament, the party's one MEP — Kristiina Ojuland — sits in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group, while its member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe — currently Margus Hanson — sits in the ALDE group in the Assembly. The Reform Party has been a full member of the Liberal International since 1996, having been an observer member from 1994 to 1996.
The party claims to have 10,000 members.
Current ministers from the Reform Party in government:
|Taavi Rõivas||Prime Minister's Office|
|Jürgen Ligi||Ministry of Finance|
|Urve Tiidus||Ministry of Culture|
|Keit Pentus-Rosimannus||Ministry of Environment|
|Urmas Paet||Ministry of Foreign Affairs|
|Hanno Pevkur||Ministry of Internal Affairs|
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- (Estonian) Reform Party official site
- (English) Estonian Reform Party faction description of the party on the Riigikogu website