Estonia’s Jews slam moves to include far-right in government
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Estonia’s Jews slam moves to include far-right in government

Leaders of tiny Baltic community criticize PM Juri Ratas for move to bring EKRE party, which has Nazi sympathizers among its members, into coalition

Mart Helme, left, chairman of the far-right Estonian ERKE party, attends an election party in Tallinn, Estonia, on March 3, 2019, and Estonia's Prime Minister Juri Ratas, right, arrives on December 13, 2018 in Brussels for a European summit. (Photos by Raigo Pajula and Ludovic Marin/AFP)
Mart Helme, left, chairman of the far-right Estonian ERKE party, attends an election party in Tallinn, Estonia, on March 3, 2019, and Estonia's Prime Minister Juri Ratas, right, arrives on December 13, 2018 in Brussels for a European summit. (Photos by Raigo Pajula and Ludovic Marin/AFP)

TALLINN, Estonia — 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 center-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 criticized 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 sympathizers.

In this file photo taken on March 1, 2019, Estonias’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas of the centrist Center party knocks on the door of a flat as he campaigns in Kostivere for general elections that took place on March 3, 2019. (Raigo Pajula/AFP)

“Many statements of this party (EKRE) are antagonistic toward 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 synagogue with his children.

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

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.

Chief Rabbi of Estonia Shmuel Kot. (Facebook)

There are about 1,950 Jews living in Estonia.

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

But the EKRE’s “Uued Uudised” website 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 Center party headquarters in the Estonian capital over the weekend.

In this file photo taken on March 3, 2019, voters cast their ballots during Estonia’s general election in a polling station in Tallin, Estonia. (Raigo Pajula/AFP)

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.

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