Papers: Pevkur facing difficult times
In their Monday editorials, Estonia’s largest-circulation papers agreed that the Reform Party’s new chairman, former Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur, would face difficult times, and that the most important thing for the party was to overcome the divide that had formed leading up to last year’s presidential elections.
Tabloid Õhtuleht wrote that the real surprise on Saturday was the difference in the number of votes for both candidates for the party’s chairmanship. Former minister of economic affairs, Kristen Michal, was some 400 votes behind Hanno Pevkur, who made the race. This, according to the paper, hinted at the fact that to plenty of party members, Saturday’s vote was as much against Michal and the party’s old guard as it was a statement in favor of change. “In any case, such an election result is a clear sign of great unrest in the Reform Party,” Õhtuleht concluded.
The question was how Michal’s wing, and with it the backroom that had run the party for years, would take the result of the election, and what their course of action would be. Pevkur’s victory didn’t mean that they would now unite around him and support the new chairman unconditionally. Michal’s ambition to win the local elections in Tallinn this year and become mayor rather hinted at the kind of power balance that had dominated Estonian politics when Savisaar ruled the capital — if the government couldn’t be had, the “Principality of Tallinn” was the next-best substitute, Õhtuleht wrote.
Pevkur’s biggest challenge would be to unite the party. He needed to see to it that the divide that had become apparent leading up to last year’s presidential elections, no longer denied even by the highest-ranking officials of the party, didn’t escalate and become a full-on war. Pevkur needed to reconcile the two wings, get rid of the party’s backroom, and run good campaigns in two elections to bring Reform back to power.
In any case, the challenges facing Pevkur would be decidedly more difficult than anything Taavi Rõivas had had to deal with, both as chairman of the party and as prime minister.
Daily Postimees wrote that big ideas how to improve things in Estonia had not been part of either candidate’s campaign, but that the main debate in the party had revolved around the way they had been run, and the means that had been used.
The paper also pointed out that after Pevkur’s election to the chairmanship, the question who would be the Reform Party’s candidate for mayor of Tallinn would not be a matter of a democratic internal process, but that it would be Kristen Michal. The latter had to prove himself already in the local elections this year, and what was going to count would be the votes he could get, and the number of mandates on the city council.
In Postimees’ assessment, the Reform Party has a good chance to get a much better result this year than it did in the previous elections. There was the possibility that it might even surpass its 2009 and 2005 results, coming in at some 17% of all votes cast in local elections.
Eesti Päevaleht wrote that the unprecedented participation in Saturday’s chairmanship and leadership election of the Reform Party, as well as the big gap between Pevkur and Michal’s results, hinted at the fact that it had reached a state that not even its own members agreed with anymore.
The paper called Michal’s decision to give up the position of chairman of Reform’s parliamentary group “reasonable”, considering that the divide in the party had already cost it the presidency as well as made it easier for its former coalition partners and the Center Party to push it out of government. The less the two wings opposed each other in the coming elections the better, Päevaleht wrote.