Laar Back on His Feet, Plans Return to Politics (1)
Eestlased Eestis 22 Oct 2012  EWR
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ERR News
A former Estonian prime minister, Mart Laar, made his return to public life less than a year after a serious stroke.

Ending a long convalescence in which he remained largely out of the public eye, Laar said at a press conference that he intended to return to Parliament in the coming months.

At an October 20 conference marking the 20th anniversary of the formation of his first government, Laar, who had been wheeled on to the stage by an assistant, quickly allayed concerns about his condition by rising to his feet for his address.

In a five-minute speech, salted with anecdotes about youthful inexperience, Laar reminisced about how the reformers of that era - many no older than the then-32-year-old prime minister himself - were able to accomplish "things considered impossible."

"I'd like to thank that entire team, where there were no rifts. Where everyone acted together, from secretaries to bodyguards. We were one big family and it was so good to tackle that roller coaster ahead of us. It was a grand ride," he said.

Laar, who displayed no significant physical impairment from the February stroke, said he would not rush his return. "I'll try to listen to [doctors] for once in my life. To this point I hadn't and the consequence wasn't long in coming," he said.

Effectively making up for lost political time, at the press conference that followed, Laar fielded questions about the ongoing health care workers' strike and the Reform Party financing scandal.

About the medical sector wages, he said "they are really quite low and clearly behind the times. At the same time it is sometimes incomprehensible why this major strike is taking place." He said that demands were not specific enough and that the doctors and nurses' tactics could prove ineffective.

Laar also gave a full interview to ETV as part of a special on rehabilitation that aired on October 21. There he spoke for the first time about the weeks following the stroke, saying that he had lost his power of speech, although he soon regained it. He said rehabilitation had been difficult but he no longer required around-the-clock nursing care.

The anniversary weekend also brought warts-and-all looks at Laar's administration. Journalist and former daily editor Kalle Muuli talked about his book called "Fatherland's Back Room," which looks at lesser-known aspects of Laar's first administration.

In an interview with ETV, Muuli said: "The crime situation was so bad back then and the government had its hands so full that there was a special squad of tough guys in the process of formation - thankfully it never came to pass or it was reconsidered - but the idea was that these guys would basically do some crime organization and, well, if they didn't just cap them, perhaps beat them into the ground."

Tiit Pruuli, a close prime ministerial adviser to Laar, said at the October 20 press conference that the 1990s were a passionate era. "Passion, passion, passion. The world's most beautiful things are conceived in the heat of passion, with a few follies thrown in as well," he said.

Pruuli noted that the main planks of the Laar government were restructuring the economy, stabilizing the kroon, pushing through property reform and attracting foreign investment. "The program has stood the test of time, although journalists and opponents detracted the Pro Patria people as economists," said Pruuli.
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