Administrator Criticized for Electioneering on School Turf ({{commentsTotal}})

Paul Alekand (left) with Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar Source: Photo: City of Tallinn

As afterthoughts on the recent local elections continue to resonate, the director of a public trade school in Tallinn was brought to task for calling students to his office in order to convince them to vote for him.

Starting in early October, students at Tallinna Tööstushariduskeskus were pulled out of class one by one and sent to the office of the school's director, Paul Alekand. This process involved only students who were residents of the city's Kristiine district, where Alekand was running. They were told that if Alekand were to be elected to the city council, the school would be in good hands. The students were given pens and key-chains and a Center Party leaflet with Alekand's running number, reported Postimees.

Some students told Postimees they were taken aback by the meetings, if not only for the fact that their private information was used for non-educational purposes.

Alekand, director of the school since 1999, joined the Center Party in 2002 and ran for Tallinn City Council the same year, garnering 12 votes. This time around he managed to gather 99 votes, which means his chances of getting a seat on the local council are very small.

Alekand told the newspaper that he did not consider his actions to be "campaign propaganda," and said that schools are certainly no place for such activity.

Both the National Electoral Committee and the Ministry of Education said they condemn any potential political intrusions into educational settings, but that Alekand had not broken any rules.

Kaarel Tarand, who took part in election watchdog efforts for ERR, said the incident was part of a wider problem in which administrative officials have been politicized and their jobs potentially rendered reliant on their loyalty.

"This is the fruit of partisanship, which a decade ago caused the massive politicization of school directors. Estonia has had periods in which 40 percent of school directors had a political background," Tarand said.

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