The father-and-son leaders of a divisive anti-immigrant party were sworn in Monday as Estonia’s interior and finance minister.
Prime Minister Juri Ratas presented his 15-member coalition Cabinet on Monday at the 101-seat Riigikogu assembly.
Earlier this month, Ratas, leader of the left-leaning Center Party, clinched a surprise deal with the nationalist and euroskeptic Estonian Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, as well as with the conservative Fatherland, to create a majority coalition.
EKRE’s Mart Helme was appointed interior minister in the Cabinet, while his son Martin becomes finance minister.
EKRE’s strong rhetoric has divided Estonia ever since the party first entered parliament in 2015. The party has advocated abolishing the law recognizing same-sex civil unions, demanded changes to the country’s abortion law and fiercely opposed European Union quotas for taking in asylum-seekers.
It emerged from the election with 17.8% of votes, becoming Estonia’s third-largest party.
The three parties will have five ministerial posts each in the government. Fatherland’s Urmas Reinsalu became new foreign minister and Juri Luik from the same party continues as defense minister — a key post in this small Baltic nation that neighbors Russia.
The fact that EKRE is entering a governing coalition has caused fierce debates nationwide, with some Estonians blaming it for polarizing society.
The party claims to defend the interests of ethnic Estonians in the former Soviet republic where some 25% of the 1.3 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians, who have traditionally opted to vote for the Center Party.
A total of five parties are represented in parliament, including the Reform Party that was the biggest party after the March 3 election. Its leader, Kaja Kallas, was first tasked to form a government, but she failed to get sufficient support.