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Estonian Ex-Premier Laar Approved as Next Central Bank Chairman

Mart Laar was confirmed as the next supervisory board chairman of Estonia’s central bank after parliament swept aside criticism of the former prime minister by the opposition for refusing to quit his junior coalition party.

Lawmakers voted 46-34 with four abstentions today in the capital, Tallinn, to back Laar, 53, who’ll replace outgoing Jaan Mannik for a five-year term starting June 13, according to the parliament website.

Laar, Estonia’s first elected prime minister after the country regained independence in 1991, liberalized prices and began to sell off state assets in the Baltic nation. During his tenure, Estonia became the first country in eastern Europe to introduce a flat income tax in 1994. Laar, who resigned as defense minister last May after suffering a stroke three months earlier, returned to parliament in November.

“Mart Laar, who has withdrawn from party politics having twice served as prime minister of the Republic of Estonia and who was one of the chief architects of the economic reforms that laid the foundation for Estonia’s success, is a tough person with excellent willpower,” President Toomas Ilves said on April 9 when proposing Laar’s candidacy.

The country’s political opposition has criticized Laar’s nomination for threatening the central bank’s independence. Laar told the Postimees newspaper in an interview this month that he won’t quit Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit, saying his only link with the party is limited to serving as its honorary chairman.

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