Political Debate on One-Party Narva Centered Around Corruption
Wednesday's televised debate between candidates running for local office in Narva, a city currently ruled by the Center Party, focused on corruption, as opposition parties accused the party of politicizing municipal jobs.
Speaking on the ETV program “Valimisstuudio,” Social Democrat candidate for mayor Jevgeni Ossinovski said that out of the 104 Center Party candidates, 57 work for the city government. He said that members of his party have tried to meet with education workers, but the central powers in the city have banned all such meetings.
Center holds 26 of the 31 seats on the city council.
IRL candidate Ants Pauls said Narva is ruled by an inner circle and that the mayor and head of the council are just figureheads.
Mihhail Stalnuhhin, the Center Party's candidate for the number one spot in Narva, said that other political parties tend to appear in the city only a few months before elections, while a number of interest groups have joined his party and their members are running for office under the Center Party.
Investors do not see concert halls, theaters or bicycle lanes in the city, a fact that deters them from investing, Ossinovski said, adding that the city's biggest problem is population drain, as Narva has lost 10,000 people or 13 percent of its population in the last decade.
Pauls said IRL would cut the salary of the mayor and head of the council, as one of the least successful municipalities in the nation should not pay such high salaries.
The local government has not fulfilled its promises, Stalnuhhin said, due to the economic crisis, but has remained realistic and now has the means to increase social benefits and teachers' salaries.
The Center Party won 76.6 percent of votes in Narva in the last local elections, in 2009. Two election coalitions each claimed two seats and one coalition won one seat on the council. 4.8 percent of the votes went to the Social Democrats, just below the 5 percent threshold needed for gaining a seat.
Besides the three mentioned parties, two individual candidates have put their names forward, while the Reform Party is not running at all in Narva.