Center Party leadership loses attempt to replace Kadri Simson (8)
Kadri Simson was reelected leader of Center’s parliamentary party on Wednesday, her deputies Mailis Reps and Valeri Korb will also continue. Simson’s reelection marks the end of the latest episode of the Center Party’s internal power struggles.
Simson thanked her supporters for giving her the chance to continue leading Center’s parliamentary party. “The Center Party is the biggest opposition force in the Riigikogu, and a lot depends on what we do,” Simson said. She hoped that the other MPs of the party could respect the majority’s decision, and that they could continue their work together, she added.
Party leadership against Simson’s reelection
Before Wednesday’s election, the Center Party’s leadership around chairman Edgar Savisaar had supported MP Jaanus Karilaid in his bid to replace Simson. After the election, Simson told the media on Wednesday that Savisaar had worked until late on Tuesday to convince the party’s MPs to vote against her and in favor of his own candidate.
The party’s leadership also aimed to replace the parliamentary party leader’s two deputies. Instead of Mailis Reps and Valeri Korb, Center’s leadership would have liked to see Olga Ivanova and Viktor Vassiljev take over.
Recent events in the party were widely attributed to a still ongoing power struggle between two opposing wings, one of which supported Kadri Simson’s candidacy for party chairwoman late last year, the other loyal to Edgar Savisaar.
Well-timed court of honor summons
MP Mailis Reps, who is a supporter of Kadri Simson, had another appointment earlier on Wednesday. The party had summoned her to appear before a court of honor. Reps was accused of having moved 18 party members from their Järvamaa district to Rapla, where she had been trying to get a quorum together.
Appearing with her before the court of honor was long-term Tartu district leader Aadu Must, who had been accused of “violent behavior" towards other members of the Center Party. Both Reps and Must had sided with Simson at last year’s party convention, and the actions taken against them by the party’s leadership under Edgar Savisaar were widely interpreted as part of an internal purge.
Party leadership might contest vote in court
If the internal proceedings against Reps and Must were intended to hamper Simson’s reelection as Center's parliamentary party leader, it didn’t work out. But that doesn’t mean that Center’s leadership will settle for the result of the vote. Secretary general Priit Toobal announced that they were considering contesting the outcome of the vote in court, as its procedure had been changed just before the election and this hadn’t been approved by the party's leadership.
The change in question concerned the election of the two deputies. According to a newly introduced rule, each MP had two votes in the election of the deputies, which likely led to the defeat of Olga Ivanova and Viktor Vassiljev, both Savisaar’s candidates.
Corruption, money laundering, illegal political donations
Two wings fighting each other’s candidates in the districts, the party’s leadership sabotaging its own people in the Riigikogu, murky accusations against party officials, a court of honor that eventually decides to leave everything the way it is, all of this adds to scandals big and small the party is continuously embroiled in.
Suspended Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar is suspected of having laundered large amounts of money as well as of corruption in four cases. Businessmen Alexander Kofkin, Hillar Teder, Aivar Tuulberg, and Vello Kunman are suspected of having bribed Savisaar. Former Rahvaliit politician and current advisor to Kunman’s Silikaat Grupp Villu Reiljan as well as Center Party politician Kalev Kallo are suspected of having arranged the bribes.
On the whole, Center is still trying to maintain the appearance of a united front against the governing parties. But while some of its members call the legal proceedings against Savisaar a political game or even a “manhunt”, others are clearly beginning to tire of the internal fighting, which, even though it hasn’t yet completely paralyzed them, seriously hamper the party and its members’ political potential.