Papers: New Center Party chairman beginning of new era in Estonian politics

Jüri Ratas speaking at the Center Party's Nov. 5 congress in Paide. (ERR /Rene Suurkaev)
11/7/2016 9:03 AM
Category: News

Estonia’s largest papers were all in agreement on Monday that Ratas’ election to Center Party chairman had the potential bring about a new era in Estonian politics. What exactly the change would be, and whether or not Center would make it into government any time soon depended a lot on the real change Ratas could achieve.

Daily Eesti Päevaleht wrote that though Ratas’ victory over Yana Toom might mean that things would change and the party return to government politics, it remained to be seen whether or not the party could remain united.

The paper pointed out that apparently the alignment of former chairman Edgar Savisaar and Estonian MEP Yana Toom’s supporters had not been as strong as expected, as voting discipline had clearly been weaker than before, and plenty of Savisaar supporters from Tallinn’s Lasnamäe district hadn’t bothered to attend the extraordinary party congress on Saturday.

The shortage of delegates true to the old Savisaar party line also hinted at the fact that the former chairman depended on his political machine in Tallinn, Päevaleht wrote. As far as Center’s chances to enter the government are concerned, the paper opined that considered the current ailing health of the coalition, there was a real chance it could happen.

Estonia’s largest daily, Postimees, wrote in its Monday editorial that it had been the main aim of the Center Party to finally get out of its long-lasting political isolation, following the course set by the progressive wing around Kadri Simson and Jüri Ratas a year ago.

The paper wrote that of course there was a great urge in the party now to push into government, to keep the topic on the agenda, and to exploit the divisions in the current coalition, but in fact, the party had not said a lot about a potential governing platform yet.

Also, Postimees pointed out that the question of the Center Party’s cooperation agreement with Putin’s party, United Russia, had not been discussed yet, neither formally nor substantially.

Other points the paper mentioned were what Ratas was planning to do with Tallinna TV, a station set up by his predecessor to advance the Center Party’s agenda in Tallinn that is financed using millions of taxpayer euros. There were several questions of this kind, and Ratas needed to be given time to show what he was going to do to finish with the party’s dirty past, Postimees wrote.

Õhtuleht wrote on Monday that Edgar Savisaar forced into retirement had the potential to influence Estonian politics a whole lot more than generational change in any other political party.

The currently governing coalition of the Reform Party, the Social Democrats, and IRL was not the only thing in question, the paper wrote. Decade-old political realities like the Center Party’s unhampered rule in Tallinn, or the fact that there was no Russian party, might now also change.

The paper also pointed out that though Ratas had said he didn’t want to be chairman to change the course of the party, the question was justified whether a different result could be expected and the party finally make it out of isolation by continuing to do things the same way. Not only those that had voted for him on Saturday were waiting for change, but also those with political responsibility, and those who elected them, Õhtuleht wrote.

Business paper Äripäev found that now Ratas had the chance to turn the Center Party into a party that was acceptable to the others, and with whom they could cooperate.

“Ratas’ chance to get the Center Party into government is great. Especially now, as the coalition is settling scores publicly,” the paper wrote. Ratas as well as the leaders of the other parties now had to show what coalition would work best, whether one of Center with the Social Democrats, or perhaps even with the Reform Party.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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