Center Party elects, parliamentary group backs Mailis Reps as presidential candidate
Former Minister of Education and Research and current MP Mailis Reps secured the Center Party’s presidential candidacy over Savisaar with 53 percent of the vote at the party council’s regular session on Saturday.
Party presidential hopefuls Edgar Savisaar, Mailis Reps, Peeter Ernits and Marina Riisalu were each given the floor to speak for 15 minutes before voting began.
Before the first round of voting, Ernits and Riisalu announced that they would be withdrawing from the vote, and so Reps was declared the party’s official presidential candidate as soon as she secured more than 50 percent of the vote in the first and only round.
While Reps herself insisted that her election over Savisaar did not indicate a deepening of the schism apparent in the party, Tallinn University political scientist Tõnis Saarts found that the results of the vote indicated that the longtime party chairman’s grip on the party has weakened, and that no matter what the Savisaar camp may say in response to Saturday’s outcome, it was still a bitter loss for them.
“This should also make one seriously consider what will become of the party in the future — and how strong the party chairman’s authority and influence really are in the party,” added Saarts.
Regarding concerns that Reps’ win over Savisaar would deepen the rift within the party, MP Kadri Simson, who herself narrowly lost to Savisaar in the party’s most recent elections for chairman, noted that prior experiences have shown that while emotions may run high as a result of competition before a vote, things settle down once a decision has been reached.
“I think that our advantage is the fact that our [party] council has chosen a single presidential candidate so early on,” she added. “What else is there to fight about here?”
Center's parliamentary group backs Reps
Center Party Deputy Chairman Jaanus Karilaid confirmed that the party’s parliamentary group backed Reps’ presidential candidacy one hundred percent.
“The precedent exists for a party’s board of directors deciding differently from the directors of its parliamentary group and the parliamentary group still acting as it sees fit,” noted Karilaid, “But I think our political culture has reached such a good point that we will act as one, and the 27 members currently in the Riigikogu are behind Mailis today.”
According to the newly chosen presidential candidate candidate, the Center Party is prepared to cooperate with other parties in electing a president within the Riigikogu in August, but only under certain conditions.
In Reps’ opinion, the right person for the job would definitely need to be someone who would have the courage to raise domestic policy-related issues. “The president’s potential bargaining point must surely be more normalized relations with Russia,” she continued. “The president must be able to address [Estonia’s] Russian-speaking population. We have our own conditions, and then we will see what will happen.”