According to the chairman of IRL’s group on the Tartu city council, Jüri Kõre, the party’s position in Tartu as well as elsewhere in the country is “shamefully low”. That now ten candidates in the coming local elections had decided to run on an independent list was a clear signal that the party needed changes, Kõre said.
The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) are still to announce their candidates for mayor of Tartu. Meanwhile ten members of IRL have decided that they will run on an independent list. Kõre is one of them.
Pressure for change within IRL not strong enough
“It seems that despite the shrinking support of the voters the pressure for changes isn’t high enough,” Kõre told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera newscast on Sunday. The step taken by the ten candidates deserting the party list increased the pressure to change the party’s politics on the national level, he added.
Kõre also stated that delaying the introduction of the party’s election platform as well as the announcement of its candidate for mayor was a “big mistake”.
The IRL members that chose to join the independents on the Tartu heaks list (“For the good of Tartu”) already have their platform priorities in place. One of the points they will campaign on is the creation of a greater Tartu administrative area. According to Kõre, this would be an important step towards a reform of local administration in Tartu County that could have a broader impact as well.
Leading candidate of Tartu heaks, Jüri Ott Salm, told ERR that changes were needed. The way Tartu is run needed to change, both at the department level as well as that of the mayor, Salm said. Looking at the primary points of the IRL members joining the list, there were synergies, he added.
IRL: Decision unexpected, but members free to choose list
According to the chairman of IRL’s Tartu section, Peeter Laurson, the decision of the ten members to join Tartu heaks was unexpected. “It seems incredible, as several members of the section’s leadership are involved. At the same time it is regrettable that the only two people are now on that list that receive a salary to work for IRL’s group,” Laurson said, adding that the common point of view had been that they would come up with a party list for the October election.
The party’s chairman, Helir-Valdor Seeder, said that all members were free to decide which list they wanted to join. At the same time Seeder expressed hope that the decision of the Tartu members that decided to leave wasn’t final.
“We’ve had the situation in several places that people initially decided to join an independent list, and later decided to join the party list,” Seeder said. “The people in Tartu decide for themselves,” he added.
Local elections: Parties vs independents vs mixed lists
On Oct. 15 this year elections will be held in all of Estonia's cities and rural municipalities. The election is based on proportional representation, with citizens choosing a list of candidates they want to support.
In recent years independent lists have become increasingly popular. Several parties are now leaving it up to their members what kind of list to join. Among the parties currently in parliament, the Free Party has followed this course the most. IRL, having faced waning popularity ratings for a long time now, are turning their attention to independent lists as well.
Though there is potential for conflict. Major political parties still receive state subsidies, which can be an issue where members of such a party join independent coalitions, as funding clearly allocated to a particular party is used to support candidates on independent lists. The National Electoral Committee recently sent a warning to the Free Party concerning this problem.
Editor: Dario Cavegn