Daily: Centre Party Members 'Prepare for Joint Departure' (1)
The Centre Party's family feud continues: an inner opposition is said to be planning a joint exodus following the ousting of an MP.
In a surprise setback for potential defectors, who gathered for a meeting earlier this week, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jüri Ratas announced that he would remain in the party and that he would not participate in future meetings, reported Postimees.
Disgruntled members have seen Ratas as a positive alternative in the party leadership (the MP has worked to distinguish himself from the bashing of dissenters inside the Centre Party, and he ran for the party chair last August).
But on Monday, Ratas defended his decision to stay with the hope that party politics would improve. “I'm not just talking about leadership style [...] Members expect changes, and I believe in our party politics and people,” said Ratas.
The most recent spurt of wrangling began with the party leadership's expulsion of MP Kalle Laanet, now Parliament's only member outside party factions.
The decision triggered a prompt announcement from board member Ain Seppik. “It hurts to see my home party fall apart, but any politically adept person can see that there is no longer a way for them to move forward in this party,” Seppik said.
A spirit of protest among party members was also shown last weekend with the election of MP Rainer Vakra - who was recently reprimanded by the party's court of honor in a controversial episode - to head the party's Nõmme district.
Sources told Postimees that leading figures, possibly including MPs, are preparing to defect next week.
Meanwhile, the man behind all the commotion, Tallinn Mayor and Centre Party Chair Edgar Savisaar, whose leadership has drawn extensive criticism, appears unshaken.
"Regarding party defectors, it is every person's free choice to join or leave the party. We aren't creating any barriers for anyone,” Savisaar said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"Of course, I hope that they continue with the party and stay true to the convictions they had when they joined it.”