Center Party: Split and loss of power in Tallinn ‘inevitable’
The council of the Center Party gathered in Tallinn on Saturday to elect a new chairman and deputies as well as to discuss matters related to the party's extraordinary congress in November. The split between supporters of Edgar Savisaar and those of a more progressive wing around Kadri Simson and Jüri Ratas became ever more evident.
The council is the Center Party’s main policymaking body between party congresses. Beyond its chairman and two deputies, it consists of different committees that deal with individual policy areas.
Savisaar fails to bring congress to Tallinn
At the beginning of the meeting, long-time leader of the party, Edgar Savisaar, held a speech at the end of which he called for an immediate vote on the location of the upcoming extraordinary party congress on Nov. 5. Instead of holding it in Paide, he wanted to bring it to Tallinn.
The location of the congress matters in so far as the voting party members present will elect the chairman of the party leadership. If Savisaar had managed to take the congress to Tallinn, where his own support base is, his own candidacy would have had a better chance.
Outgoing council chairman Kalev Kallo thwarted this attempt at changing the odds in Savisaar’s favor. Kallo said that the confirmed agenda precluded an immediate vote.
The council went on to elect MP Kersti Sarapuu its new chairwoman. Sarapuu, considered a member of the party’s progressive wing around Kadri Simson and Jüri Ratas, received 106 votes. The other contender for the position, MP Peeter Ernits, who can be counted among Savisaar’s supporters, received 51 votes.
Sarapuu has been a member of the Center Party since 2002 and has headed its Järva County section for the last 15 years.
Congress in Paide to be held on Nov. 5
Pursuant to the extended board's decision, the extraordinary congress will be held in the central Estonian town of Paide on Nov. 5, spokespeople for the party said. The decision will be forwarded to the party's board for setting representation quotas and making other decisions necessary for carrying out the event.
Ernits: Party split beyond repair
Center Party MP Peeter Ernits said after Saturday's meeting that the party couldn’t be saved.
”The bridge of reconciliation was broken today. The split of Estonia's largest party is inevitable now, and so is its losing power in Tallinn," Ernits told Postimees Online. Ernits added that he was “far from certain” that long-time chairman Edgar Savisaar would run on the Center Party list in the local elections in 2017.
Ernits said he could not yet comment whether Savisaar himself had made a clear promise to set up his own list for the elections but added that, as a person very close to the Centrist leader, he dared to bring out such a plan. The possibility of Savisaar setting up a new party had also been considered, he said.
Toomas Vitsut, Center MP and former chairman of the Tallinn city council, told the paper he considered it completely credible that Savisaar could run against the Center Party with his own list, but dismissed the possibility of Savisaar creating a new party. "A new party would require quite a lot of money and a big personal contribution, I don't think it's realistic," Vitsut was quoted saying.