IRL's court of honor has named Sander Kilk as the man behind the drive to bring in dozens of criminally convicted people to the party ahead of internal elections earlier in the summer. Tõnis Palts, a former Tallinn mayor and finance minister, was also blamed for breaching the party's principles.
At the end of May, dozens of people joined the party ahead of internal leadership elections, only for 21 to be ejected on the grounds they had received criminal convictions, including one who had served time for murder. The party was hit by a similar trend three years ago.
Helen Hääl, the head of the court of honor, said such a move, aimed at influencing internal elections, is a violation of the party's principles. She said the court found that an attempt to manipulate election results did take place.
The court said Kilk was behind the influx of criminally convicted members. Kilk has now left the party.
Hääl said that changes to the party's internal rules are necessary to avoid similar things in the future.
She added that a number of party board members might have been involved and she will talk to the entire board before specifying any names.
The court also found that court of honor member Mari Agarmaa and Linda Eichler, the head of the party's youth wing, recommended new members with dubious pasts. Palts sent a letter to the board outlining how he planned to manipulate internal elections, the court found.
Palts said the court was a show trial and his letter was written out of honesty. He said he will fight the decision, Postimees reported. Eicher told Delfi the trial was an attempt to attack the youth wing, which, according to her, is trying to push through modern changes in the party.
Party Chairman Urmas Reinsalu resigned a few months after the general election, which were considered a failure for the party. Margus Tsahkna beat Jaan Männik by 685 votes to 210 to become the new head at the beginning of June.
The party has seen more than its share of internal strife since the early 90s when a number of political groups joined to create Pro Patria, which later merged with the Estonian National Independence Party in 1995, and then in 2006 with Res Publica to create the modern-day IRL.
The party has been divided by the Pro Patria and Res Publica lines in recent years, and one of Tsahkna's first pledges was to unite the party. “The lines are certainly no longer drawn between Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, but between people who believe the party has a future, and those who have, repeatedly, used unjust methods and manipulations,” he said after getting the nod at the internal leadership elections.
IRL won 14 seats at the last election and is currently a coalition partner for the Reform Party and the Social Democrats.
Editor: J.M. Laats