TALLINN, Estonia — Kaja Kallas was reelected as the chairperson of Estonia’s ruling Reform Party on Saturday, solidifying her position as the Baltic nation’s leader despite mounting pressure from the opposition and voters to step down due to a scandal involving her husband’s business dealings in Russia.
Kallas, a 46-year-old lawyer, has been leading the Reform Party, Estonia’s largest political group, since April 2018 and became the country’s first female prime minister in January 2021. She was the sole candidate for the party leadership post and garnered the support of two-thirds of the 931 delegates during a general meeting in the capital, Tallinn, with the remaining third abstaining.
At a foreign policy conference in Washington earlier this week, Kallas expressed her interest in potentially becoming the next secretary-general of NATO, as the current chief, Jens Stoltenberg, is set to step down in October 2024 after serving for 10 years. She has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine and a strong critic of Russia within both the European Union and NATO, with Estonia being a member of both organizations.
Despite leading the Reform Party to a resounding victory in Estonia‘s March general election, Kallas’ domestic popularity and political credibility took a hit in August following reports that her husband maintained shares in a transportation company operating in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This revelation led to widespread calls for her resignation, including from President Alar Karis and over two-thirds of Estonians surveyed in recent opinion polls.
During parliamentary committee hearings, Kallas maintained that she was unaware of the details of her husband’s business activities in Russia and refused to step down, despite increasing pressure to do so.