Election of parliamentary group leader shows rising unrest in Center Party (2)
Some Center Party MPs leaving the meeting room where the election was held were visibly agitated. “What happened here was a tremendously undemocratic procedure,” MP Heimar Lenk told the journalists waiting outside.
“There were threats, there was flattery, it was rather emotional,” MP Mailis Reps said.
Asked about it, Simson seemed unmoved. “We got to see an eloquent secretary general in the meeting, but in the working order of a parliamentary group, it isn’t the secretary general who names the leader,” she said.
According to Simson, party chairman Edgar Savisaar had worked the MPs until late on Tuesday to get them to vote for his candidate instead. “Some he threatened, to some he made promises,” Simson said.
Jaanus Karilaid, who was the party leadership’s candidate, said that this kind of politics was new to the Center Party, and pointed out that so far the parliamentary group had always followed the leadership’s position. “How Center’s parliamentary group deals with this, only time will tell,” Karilaid said.
Reps said in ETV’s “Ringvaade” later on Wednesday that the party leadership’s vote to decide who should be their pick for leader of its parliamentary group was usually secret, but that on Tuesday Savisaar had demanded an open vote.
“This also shows that Edgar Savisaar doesn’t trust the members of his own party leadership. He was afraid that Kadri Simson would win, which very likely would have been the case,” Reps said.
Kadri Simson was confirmed leader of Center’s parliamentary group on Wednesday, winning the vote with the support of 14 of the group’s 27 MPs. Her deputies, MPs Valeri Korb and Mailis Reps, were reelected as well.
This was against the wishes of the Center Party’s leadership around Edgar Savisaar, which had made MP Jaanus Karilaid their candidate. Deputies Reps and Korb were to be replaced with Olga Ivanova and Viktor Vassiljev.
The leadership’s baffled reaction to the result gave away that they had expected the parliamentary group to toe the line. But already on Tuesday, long-serving MP Enn Eesmaa had told ERR that the leadership’s position was of “advisory character” only and wouldn’t influence the decision of the parliamentary group.
Only the latest showdown in a long series of struggles within the party, the election might have legal consequences. Center's secretary general Priit Tobal announced that the MPs that voted against Simson were considering taking the matter to court.