Konstantin Päts : biography
In 1932 elections the newly formed United Farmers’ Party took 42 seats in Riigikogu and one of the party’s leaders, Karl August Einbund, became the State Elder. On 3 October 1932, the coalition between the United Farmers Party and National Centre Party broke up since the latter wanted to devalue the Estonian kroon during the Great Depression. A month-long government crisis started. Since there were only three major parties in the parliament, the third being the Estonian Socialist Workers’ Party, no functioning coalition could be found until special authority was given to Konstantin Päts to form a grand coalition between all three major parties. His cabinet took office on 1 November 1932. On 25 November 1932, Päts’s government got even more power from the disunited parliament to deal with the economic crisis. His government cabinet was forced to resign on 18 May 1933, after the National Centre Party, still favouring devaluation, left the coalition and the United Peasants’ Party had lost many of its members to the reactivated Settlers’ party.XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 364
Konstantin Päts was relatively successful in internal politics. After adopting the constitution, his party was in all the government cabinets, except for Friedrich Karl Akel’s and August Rei’s cabinets and Jaan Tõnisson’s fourth cabinet. This makes it 4,017 days (89%) in the government (of 4,497 between 1921–1933). Päts was himself the State Elder four times, a total of 1,476 days (33%). Interestingly, he never filled any other position in the government besides the head of government (except for the additional minister positions in the Provisional Government).
Päts served as the chairman of the Farmers’ Assemblies party only unofficially and he was considered to be a bad partyman and often formed the opposition within the party. Therefore he seldom took part of their official meetings. Only in 1933, he was made honorary chairman of the party.Laaman, Eduard; Konstantin Päts. Poliitika- ja riigimees; Noor-Eesti kirjastus, Tartu, 1940; p. 176
Membership in the parliament:
- 1917–1919 Estonian Provincial Assembly (Maapäev)
- 1919–1920 Estonian Constituent Assembly
- 1920–1923 I Riigikogu
- 1923–1926 II Riigikogu
- 1926–1929 III Riigikogu
- 1929–1932 IV Riigikogu
- 1932-1934/1937 V Riigikogu
Lack of government stability led to several new constitution proposals, but only the third proposal by the right-wing populist Vaps Movement was accepted in a referendum in 1933. Päts was elected on 21 October 1933 to head the non-aligned transitional government to the second constitution. Until 24 January 1934, he served as State Elder, but after the new constitution came into force, he became Prime Minister in duties of the State Elder. The new constitution was a drift from democracy, giving a lot of power to the president (still named "State Elder") and leaving the parliament only an advisory role .XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 380
Both Päts and his recent predecessor Jaan Tõnisson tried to control the Vaps Movement, that was seen by democratic parties as a local National Socialist party that had to be kept away from power.XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 383 In August 1933, State Elder Jaan Tõnisson had declared a state of emergency and temporary censorship,XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 375 that was lifted only when Päts’s transitional government took office.XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 377 On 27 February 1934, Päts himself imposed a law, prohibiting members of the military to take part in politics. This action forced several thousand members of the army to secede from the Vaps Movement.XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 381
Päts was one of the candidates in the presidential elections,XX sajandi kroonika, I osa; Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Tallinn, 2002; p. 382 but he was accompanied by threats by the Vaps Movement to take power and rumors of a forthcoming coup. Konstantin Päts then carried out a coup d’état on 12 March 1934. He was supported by general Johan Laidoner and the army.