Estonian PM Juri Ratas resigns amid corruption allegations

Opposition centre-right Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas asked to form the next government

Estonia’s PM Juri Ratas has announced his intention to resign early in the wake of an inquiry into a property development project in the capital. Ratas went to Estonia's president on Wednesday morning to present his resignation, news wire BNS reported. According to PM’s spokeswoman, the president will have the task of proposing the next leader of government to the parliament.

BNS reminded that Ratas' party was declared suspect on Tuesday in a criminal investigation over the financing of 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, who denies any knowledge of the financing, told reporters, according to BNS. He took the decision after a party meeting on Tuesday to discuss the charges, which dragged into the early hours of Wednesday.

Judicial authorities in Estonia had previously launched investigations into a state aid loan to a real estate project, according to the prosecutor general. Four people were taken into custody on Tuesday. Suspects include the party secretary general, an adviser to the finance minister and a real estate developer who has often donated to the party - which is also under suspicion as a legal entity. The prosecutor general, Taavi Pern, said there is no reason to suggest, however, that Ratas himself had any knowledge of what was going on.

Ratas, prime minister since late 2016, lost the 2019 general election, in which the centre-right Reform Party emerged as the largest party. He then blocked the winner from taking power by forming a surprise coalition of his left-leaning Centre, the conservative Fatherland party and the far-right EKRE that gave the three parties a majority in parliament. Estonia's next general election is due in March 2023.

Following Ratas resignation president asked the leader of the opposition centre-right Reform Party, Kaja Kallas, to form the next government. Kallas, whose party won the 2019 election but was outmanoeuvred by Ratas, will need support in parliament for the nomination. The next government, however, is unlikely to include the far-right EKRE party, whose leaders denounced the US election result as rigged and called President-elect Joe Biden “corrupt”. Kallas is a critic of the outgoing government’s proposed referendum on whether marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman.

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