Reform and Center Party Tartu City Government coalition collapses

Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas (right) of the Reform Party, and Tartu's Center Party leader Jaan Toots.
Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas (right) of the Reform Party, and Tartu's Center Party leader Jaan Toots. Source: Madis Hindre/ERR

The coalition of the Reform Party and Center Party on Tartu City Government has broken down, with the majority Reform Party aiming to enter negotiations with the Social Democratic Party (SDE), aiming for a new coalition partnership.

"We have a situation where the Center Party is not united on how to resolve conflicts within the party, so it is difficult to see how the Center Party can participate in managing Tartu," said the city's mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) on Monday evening.

Center nominated Aleksandr Širokov as candidate for new deputy mayor late last week; however, for Širokov to take up his seat, current incumbent, Monica Rand, would need to step down, which she has so far refused to do.

Rand was expelled from the Center Party earlier in the week, after refusing to honor a November agreement under which her role would have expired on January 1.

The Tartu council chamber consists of the Reform Party on 20 seats, SDE on eight, Center on seven, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) on six, and Isamaa on three. Additionally there are three seats split between two smaller, regional groups.

According to Klaas, the present situation is not in the city's interests. 

"The priority of the Reform Party is to deal with issues which are important to the city of Tartu, not the resolution of the coalition partner's internal quarrel. We [previously] had good cooperation with the Center Party on the coalition, but the Center Party has recently changed in its dealings," Klaas continued, noting he could not allow a situation to continue without a working, open and reliable atmosphere on the council.

SDE leader in Tartu Heljo Pikhof said that the regional party boad had met to hammer out key points it would want to see in any coalition agreement with Reform; the two parties are to meet for the first time on Tuesday.

"We will definitely enter negotiations. As the putative relationship with the Center Party [and Reform] has now ended, and they want to negotiate with us, we are happy about that," Pikhof told the ERR.

Potential names touted for the new lineup are deputies Meelis Luht and Gea Kangilaski, along with Lemmit Kaplinski, the council chair, are potential candidates for the post.

Pihkof said no names have been firmed up as yet, believes that the above are capable of doing their job in these positions.

The Center Party wanted to gather votes against Rand, however, with Toots saying this would essentially be a test of the coalition's ability to survive; now Reform have called their bluff.

Toots however dines that any no-confidence vote in Rand was to be held, telling ERR that it was Center who had proposed the coalition dissolution, replacing it with a renewed Center-Reform lineup.

Toots said that the Center board in Tartu unanimously agreed to proposes a new coalition with Reform, or end cooperation.

"It was 100 percent last night's (i.e. Sunday's-ed.) joint decision that we would not go any further with this ugly thing; we would definitely not go down the route of a no-confidence vote, but made a suggestion to the coalition partner (i.e. Reform-ed.) - either start afresh on a new basis, or politely split," Toots said. Adding he does not bear any responsibility for losing power in Tartu and stressing that his party is in good health in the city.

He also called out council leader Aadu Must (Center), saying he was working against the party's interests.

"If you look at today's article [citing Must] in Postimees, our current council president, Mr Must, is directly working against his own party, making statements against it. That has all impacted our new board and ability to work," Toots said.

Toots added that he was not seeking Must's expulsion from Center, however.

Aadu Must himself told ERR that it was time for the Tartu district board to step down, adding that Toots was unprofessional and unsuitable as a district manager.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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