Reform Party chairmanship debate behind closed doors, internal voting to end on Thursday
The debate of the Reform Party’s chairmanship candidates, Kristen Michal and Hanno Pevkur, took place behind closed doors on Wednesday evening. Electronic voting ends today Thursday, the party's general assembly is set for Saturday, when the results of the election will be announced.
Members of the party were invited, the public was not. Press spokesman Silver Pukk told ERR on Wednesday that journalists were kept out because they were worried that otherwise people might not be bold enough to ask questions.
Pukk added that the Reform Party’s section events had always been closed to the public, like similar events in Rapla earlier this week, and in Tartu in late December. A public debate would require a different format, he said.
Former Minister of the Interior and current member of the Riigikogu, Hanno Pevkur, said that he had left it to the party’s different sections to decide whether or not they would like to see him in a debate with Michal. The question whether the event should be open or closed to the public he had also left for the sections to answer.
Pevkur added that if part of the debate was going to be about internal matters of the party, then obviously it was understandable that members preferred the event to be private.
The party’s upcoming assembly on Saturday is open to the public. The election of the party’s next chairman, to follow Taavi Rõivas, who after the Riigikogu’s expression of no confidence announced he would step down at the end of 2016, has been going on since Jan. 2. Members can vote electronically until later today, the result will be presented on Saturday.
According to Pukk, electronic voting via the party’s intraweb is safe and requires every member to identify themselves using the usual electronic ID verification. The procedure was the same as banks and state institutions used it, and it couldn’t be manipulated, Pukk said.
On Saturday, for the first time since it was founded in 1994, the party will elect one of two candidates chairman. Michal and Pevkur are the first candidates for the party’s leading position in its history that face each other in an election. The party previously had the habit of electing the single candidate presented to it by its leadership.
Over the past weeks supporters of both candidates have become more agitated. While Pevkur’s camp has kept referring to Michal’s role in the party’s 2012 financing scandal, and is arguing that the party would change neither its course nor its attitude under his leadership, Michal’s supporters have accused the other side of deliberately damaging his reputation, and of playing down the achievements of the current and previous leaderships.