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Estonia: Composition Of Government Still Uncertain

Tallinn, 27 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Estonia's Prime Minister Tiit Vahi promised Tuesday to present the new candidates to government posts to President Lennart Meri today. But Juhan Kivirahk, director of the Government Information Center, today said Vahi was not yet ready to present the list of new ministers.

Vahi has to name six new ministers in place of the Reform Party's ministers who resigned last week. The Reform Party announced it was quitting the government last Thursday as its coalition partner, the Coalition Party, refused to cancel the cooperation agreement with opposition centrists. Before that, the Coalition Party and the Center Party had formed a governing coalition in Tallinn.

Vahi accepted the resignation of Foreign Minister and Reform Party chairman Siim Kallas. Five other Reform Party ministers -- Economics Minister Andres Lipstok, Interior Minister Mart Rask, Social Minister Toomas Vilosius, Education Minister Jaak Alliksoo and Transport minister Kalev Kukk -- have to continue work until the appointment of new ministers.

After the Reform Party left the government, the Coalition Party, the rural parties and the Estonian Pensioners' and Families' League stayed in the coalition. By Monday, the Prime Minister proposed the Center Party and the Progress Party join the coalition. The Progress Party was formed about a year ago by former Center Party members, who left the party after the secret taping scandal of centrist leader Edgar Savisaar.

The Center Party agreed to join the government yesterday, but the Progress Party refused, saying it was offered too few government posts compared to the centrists. Vahi offered the centrists three, and the Progress Party one portfolio. Earlier, the Progress Party had said it would never be in the same government with centrists.

The Center Party's decision is not final either, as it must be confirmed by the Party's council.

Without the Progress Party, the coalition would have one vote short of majority in the 101-member Parliament, and the Prime Minister could form only a minority government. Political circles suppose that Vahi hopes for the passive support of the Parliament's ethnic Russian faction. So, the small ethnic Russian faction would became the decisive factor in Parliament. Our correspondent reports this would give the Russian-speakers a strong position from which to try to influence issues.

The opposition conservative Pro Patria Union has called for Vahi's resignation. It's possible that the Parliament will hold no-confidence vote against Vahi next week. Apparently, that's one reason Vahi was eager to form a new coalition.

Tuesday, the Prime Minister was confident that the majority coalition was already formed. But Vahi writes today in the daily "Paevaleht," that the new government will likely become unstable, as the rightist opposition parties would not support it.