Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas was re-elected as chairman of the Estonian Reform Party at the party's general assembly in Tartu on Sunday, having stood as the only candidate for the position. Alongside Rõivas, the newly-elected executive board includes several outspoken critics of the ruling party's current policies.
Taavi Rõivas gained the votes of 750 party members out of 872 as candidate for party chairman, reinforcing the PM's confidence, ERR reports.
According to MEP Urmas Paet, the lack of a rival candidate came as an obvious move in consideration of the recent general election.
"We have to take into account that a rival candidate has the possibility to follow through and if they do, it basically means re-electing the Prime Minister in a democratic society," Paet said. "In other words, it would be a blow to the government we have worked so hard to form over."
There was, however, choice aplenty in electing members for the party's executive board. Support was strongest for MEP Kaja Kallas, elected by 666 party members out of 972. Alongside Kallas, the assembly saw the election of members considered as inner critics of the party, including Aivar Sõerd, Anne Sulling, Urmas Paet and Rein Lang.
Meanwhile, previous members Laine Randjärv, Valdo Randpere, Urmas Klaas, Toomas Kivimägi and Yoko Alender failed to see re-election to the board.
Having gained the highest number of votes in the election, Kallas had previously expressed hopes for debate regarding the party's goals at the general assembly.
"Sadly, there hasn't been such a place for debate here and that makes me sad. Despite Taavi Rõivas and the Secretary General reacting to my wishes, I haven't had the chance to respond. It could have been a livelier debate, one in which it would have been possible to defend one's ideas," Kallas said.
"The general assembly is not quite the place for discussion. It has a format of its own, but I think that the board of the party is expected to provide answers and with new members on the board we are capable of doing so. If the party members have any questions, then they'll also be answered," Rõivas said in return.
The party chairman stressed the need for unified progress and noted that the Reform Party lacks inner conflicts and camps, unlike other parties that were subject to fragmentation and members quitting.
"The Reform Party has never seen anything like that and our strength has been in talking things through amongst each other. Of course there are those who wish for some things to be different, but not in a way that could be seen as forming a camp or creating conflict," Rõivas said.
Kallas also found that inner critics should not be seen as enemies, but that essential topics should serve as basis for debate. "In order to become a new Nordic country, the party needs to live up to the standard of political parties in the Nordic countries. There are things that we could be doing better," she explained.
With Rõivas elected as party chairman with 750 votes, those elected to the executive board of the Estonian Reform Party include Kaja Kallas (666 votes), Jürgen Ligi (623), Hanno Pevkur (606), Anne Sulling (577), Maris Lauri (555), Urmas Paet (551), Urve Tiidus (518), Arto Aas (491), Ants Laaneots (472), Urmas Kruuse (403), Kalle Palling (391), Aivar Sõerd (376), Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (362) and Rein Lang (361).
The previous board, alongside Rõivas, consisted of vice-chairmen Kaja Kallas, Jürgen Ligi, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus and Urmas Paet, and members Urmas Kruuse, Rein Lang, Kalev Lillo, Hanno Pevkur, Laine Randjärv, Valdo Randpere, Jaanus Tamkivi and Kairi Uustulnd.
The Estonian Reform Party elects a chairman and executive board every two years. Vice-chairmen will be decided at the first meeting of the board.
Editor: A. Kaer