Democracy Think Tanks May Be First Casualty of Financing Scandal

laine uudised-laine
29. May 2012

Although it is not clear whether it will produce any shakeup in the Cabinet, the Reform Party financing scandal will put the idea of partisan think tanks on ice for a while.

Parliament's Constitutional Committee is expected today to put establishing "worldview foundations" – known by their Estonian acronym MSAs – off the agenda at least until the autumn.

IRL, the Reform Party's partner in government, made the motion. It did not cite the scandal as a reason.

But Constitutional Committee deputy chairman Deniss Boroditš said that the decision would be impacted by the scandal, as the creation of the think tanks is linked to party financing issues.

Jaanus Tamkivi, head of the Reform Party faction in Parliament, said that the original agreement was that all four factions would have have consensus. "If people feel the topic must be discussed more, that is the way it must be," he said.

Writing on his blog herkel.net, IRL MP and leading ideologue Andres Herkel said the decision would be the "first purifying effect" of whistleblower Silver Meikar's calling attention to murky financing in the Reform Party.

"Meikar's statement brought to light the need to deal with questions of party financing and the Political Parties Act in general," said Herkel. "It is clear something is rotten in the state of party financing, but it is not clear whether legislation or a more mature political culture will be the cure."

The proposed foundations would be funded with close to a million euros from the state budget. They are seen as having a legitimate non-partisan purpose, helping to advance democratic principles in countries with which Estonia is engaged – Georgia among them – much as, say, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation played a role in newly independent Estonia.

Among those called to testify before the Constitutional Committee on Monday were the Georgian and Moldovan ambassadors and former Belarusian presidential candidate Ales Mikhailevich.