Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas resigned from his position due to a corruption scandal in his Center Party, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The scandal includes the exchange of a private party donation to an essential member of Ratas’s party in return for a political favor regarding a high-profile real estate property, the AP reported. Discussions between parties regarding the makings of a new ruling coalition started Wednesday.
Ratas was head of three political parties since last April; the left Center Party’s main coalition, the nationalist EKRE party and conservative Fatherland Party, the AP reported. Ratas’s resignation means the country’s three-coalition government will also automatically resign, but doesn’t lead to a new election. (RELATED: Bank CEO Resigns Following ‘Largest Money Laundering Scandal In European History’)
Ratas wrote in a Facebook post that he would leave his position as prime minister because “the suspicion expressed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office …. does not mean that someone is definitely guilty but they will inevitably cast a serious shadow over all those involved,” according to the AP.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that they suspected the Central Party and a group of five individuals were involved in the alleged criminal activity, the AP reported. Secretary of the Central Party Mihhail Korb, who announced Tuesday that he was stepping down, was one of the suspects.
The office also suspects Hillar Teder, a real estate businessman, and Kersti Kraht, an advisor to the country’s finance minister, of involvement in the scandal, the AP reported. Teder is suspected of making a deal with Korb to oversee direction of access routes to the Porto Franco estate and in return, giving a one million-euro donation to the party.
Teder’s son is the central shareholder to the estate, the AP reported. Ratas denies the real estate project held sway in government decisions.
“In such a situation, it seems only right that, by resigning myself, I will give the opportunity to shed light on all the facts and come to clarity,” Ratas wrote in his Facebook post, according to the AP. “Despite taking political responsibility, I can say with all my heart that, as prime minister, I have not made any malicious or deliberately wrong decisions.”
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 13, 2021
Parties began discussing the makings of a new government after Ratas announced his resignation, the AP reported.
Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid said she’d suggest the center-right Reform Party, the main opposition party, put forth their chairwoman, Kaja Kallas, to start a new government, the AP reported.
Ratas was prime minister of Estonia since November 2016, the AP reported.
The Embassy of Estonia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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