Estonia's Jews slam moves to include far-right in govt


Tallinn (AFP)

Estonia's tiny Jewish community voiced concern Monday over an unprecedented move to include a far-right party in the next government of the Baltic EU state.

Outgoing centre-left prime minister Juri Ratas launched coalition talks last week with the far-right EKRE party after its support surged in a recent general election.

The move by Ratas, which has been roundly criticised even from within his own party, is aimed at preventing the winning liberal Reform from forming a government.

EKRE leader Mart Helme has publicly expressed xenophobic, sexist and homophobic views, and the members of his party have included people convicted of violent crimes and Nazi sympathisers.

"Many statements of this party (EKRE) are antagonistic towards national minorities and aim at dividing society into insiders and outsiders. This can only cause frustration and regret," the Jewish Community of Estonia said in a statement.

The community also deplored as "unacceptable" a rare incident of anti-Semitism against Estonia's chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot, who was verbally assaulted on Saturday in central Tallinn as he was on his way to the synagogue with his children.

Police on Monday detained a 27-year-old man for hurling racial abuse at Shmuel.

Jewish community spokesman Gennadi Gramberg said this was the first serious incident of anti-Semitism for the Israeli-born rabbi since he moved to Estonia in 2000. The are about 1,950 Jews living in Estonia.

The head of Estonia's Evangelical Lutheran church, Archbishop Urmas Viilma, has apologised for the incident in an open letter.

But the EKRE's "Uued Uudised" website has denounced the story as fake news.

Police in Tallinn are also investigating a separate incident which saw swastikas daubed in green paint on the facade of Ratas's Centre party headquarters in the Estonian capital over the weekend.

The incident is seen as a reaction to the party's ongoing coalition talks with the EKRE, which nearly tripled its seats in the March 3 general election. Analysts say the surge is a backlash from mostly rural voters who feel left behind after years of austerity.

Ratas is also talking to the smaller conservative Isamaa party. If successful, the three-party coalition could control 57 seats in the 101-member parliament.