Recent polls by two survey companies show that a majority of Estonians think the country’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, should resign because of her husband’s business dealings with Russia; Kallas says she’s not planning to step down.
The poll, commissioned by Norstat, the Institute for Social Research, found that 57 per cent of respondents said “she should resign”, 31 per cent said “she should explain but could continue in her post”, seven per cent said “she should do nothing” and five per cent said “don’t know”.
Respondents were asked a question: “How do you think the prime minister Kaja Kallas should act in the light of the news in the last few days that a transport company linked to her husband has continued shipments to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine?”.
While more than half of the respondents think that the prime minister should resign, the answers vary significantly depending on party preference.
Among supporters of opposition parties, an overwhelming majority think that a resignation would be necessary. This is the view of 96 per cent of the supporters of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (also known as EKRE), 80 per cent of the Centre Party and 74 per cent of Isamaa.
Thirty-nine per cent of the Social Democrats supporters and 28 per cent of Estonia 200 supporters also say the prime minister should resign. However, just eight per cent Reform Party – the party Kallas leads and won the last general election with – supporters think the prime minister should resign. Seventy-one per cent of the Reform Party supporters say Kallas should give an explanation but could continue in office, and 19 per cent say she should do nothing about the scandal.
Norstat conducted the poll on 24-25 August in an online environment among Estonian citizens aged 18 and over, with a total of 1,000 respondents.
Another survey, conducted by Turu-uuringute AS, found that 48 per cent of the poll respondents said that Kallas should definitely resign, and 21 per cent said, “rather yes”. Just 14 per cent said, “rather no” and nine percent “definitely no”. Nine per cent also had no opinion.
That poll found that among the Reform Party voters, 17 per cent want Kallas to resign, while among the Social Democrats supporters the same figure is 38 percent and among the Estonia 200 voters, 61 per cent. These three parties form the current governing coalition.
Kallas lent €370,000 to the company that has business interests in Russia
The Estonian Public Broadcasting reported on 23 August that Stark Logistics, a transport company partly owned by Kallas’s husband Arvo Hallik, has not ceased operations with Russia.
Kristjan Laag, the CEO of Stark Logistics, told the outlet that the company “had practically stopped transporting to Russia, but had not completely ceased operations”, adding that the “current few runs are the last loads”.
The company had continued shipments to Russia throughout the war in Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022. Publicly available records show that the firm partly owned by the prime minister’s husband has arranged shipments worth at least US$17 million to Russia during the war, the Estonian newspaper Eesti Päevaleht reported.
Ever since the war, Kallas has told the Estonian as well as the international media that “there must be no business with Russia”.
At a government press conference on 21 April 2022, Kallas spoke about the ban on Russian artists entering the country and expanded on the issue. “In war, everything is very black and white and clearly you must choose sides. Most businesses, event organisers and municipalities have a moral or ethical compass in place, so they don’t organise such events, they understand that,” she said.
The Estonian prime minister had a clear link to her husband’s business interests, since her declaration of economic interests, made public in June, revealed that she had lent €350,000 to Arvo Hallik’s company Novaria Consult that owns 24.8 per cent of Stark Logistics.
Kallas wrote to the Reform Party members on 23 August that she had lent another €20,000 to her husband’s company in June. At the government press conference on 24 August, she said that she had received both loans back.
Kallas said in an interview with the Estonian Public Broadcasting in the evening of 25 August that she isn’t planning to resign.
“I’m not going to resign, I’ve stood up for and I’m continuing to stand up for, as prime minister, for the freedom of Ukraine and for Estonia,” she said.