The Center Party decision to name party chairman Edgar Savisaar as its candidate for the Prime Minister will further isolate the party on the Estonian political landscape, says Professor Vello Pettai, the head of the Institute of Government and Politics at the University of Tartu.
Savisaar told the party's board on Sunday that he has the energy to lead the party during the March 1 elections, Pettai said, adding that Kadri Simson, the other candidate for the spot, has always maintained that Savisaar is the first choice.
“Even if the Center Party and the Social Democrats together pick up 51 seats at the next elections, I would not imagine SDE would easily agree to a Savisaar-led government,” he said.
Simson's candidacy is an attempt by its members to make the party more democratic, and without her saying she is ready to step up, the party would be branded as even more undemocratic, Pettai said.
Simson, and Jüri Ratas, are worried that the party will remain in opposition for another four years, extending the barren run in parliamentary power to 12 years.
The party will become more marginalized as it is in power only in Tallinn and Ida-Viru County. It has seen its long-time strongholds in other areas of the country, such as Põlva, slip out of its grasp. The Center Party held control of the city council in Põlva for 15 years, but in the last election in October 2013, Center only gained seven of 23 seats, allowing IRL, which has eight seats, to take control.
The Center Party's connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia, are also problematic with the Ukraine conflict still ongoing, and concerns over Estonia's border security after the seizing of Estonian counterintelligence agent Eston Kohver, who is awaiting trial in Moscow.
“All other parties will focus on security, security and security. The Center Party will have a hard time speaking on the topic,” Pettai said.
He said the Center Party could repeat the scenario of the Harmony party in Latvia, which has repelled ethnic Latvians, while other ethnicities, aside for Russian, will not turn up to vote for it.
Savisaar has been the party chairman for the entire 23 years of the party's existence, barring a few months in the mid-1990s.