60 Members Withdraw From IRL
Sixty party members - including former MPs and at least one former minister - pulled out of governing coalition party IRL, having announced the move in a letter to the chairman on Sunday.
The nationalist-conservative party, a member of the ruling coalition, was formed in 2006 with the merging of Pro Patria Union and Res Publica. But a political rift has remained, resulting in a party crisis last year.
The signatories of the statement said they have prepared to withdraw since last fall; some had hoped that the two sides would come to terms, other saw quitting as inevitable, reported Postimees.
Most have already joined or said they will join a nonprofit made up of disgruntled members that was established last year.
With a strong membership but a low number of representatives in Parliament, IRL has received 150 and lost 140 members so far this year.
IRL Chairman Urmas Reinsalu, elected just three weeks ago to replace Mart Laar, said the party will move on, but that the departed are welcome to return. He defended the current party line, taking credit for recent progress in higher education reforms and the passing of a resolution honoring Estonian freedom fighters - issues that are central to IRL.
“I became chairman not through backroom politics, but through honest elections. In my speech after the election I asked for my party members to give me a fair chance. Unfortunately, the chance given to me only lasted a few weeks.”
He continued, “Don't fear, for IRL is in good hands. The values upon which our party was founded will be protected [...] It is unfortunate that prior to your notice you did not consider it possible to meet with me.”