Tartu mayor: Continuing coalition with Center would have defied logic

Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform).
Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform) says that not dismantling the current coalition agreement with the Center Party would not have made logical sense, following the breakup of the coalition on Tartu City Government Monday night. The move follows a change in leadership in the Center Party in Tartu, and the expulsion from the party of a deputy mayor.

"For me, things have to be logical. I can't do them unless they are logical to me," Klaas said, speaking on Vikerraadio broadcast "Uudis+" on Tuesday.

Interviewer Mirko Ojakivi noted that Center's leader in Tartu, Jaan Toots, had proposed extending and renewing the existing agreement.

Reform has 20 seats at Tartu's city government chamber, Center has seven. The two parties had been in coalition together, with the Social Democratic Party (SDE), the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa being in opposition, along with three local Tartu groups' representatives.

However, Center had seen its former deputy mayor, Monica Rand, who was expelled form the party earlier in the month on the grounds of damaging the party's reputation, refuse to step down. Rand had originally been required to leave the post at the beginning of the year; Center could not get its replacement deputy mayor, Aleksandr Širokov, installed until Rand did so.

"This doesn't look like a real coalition any more, as the agreement was signed by the former Center Party chair in Tartu, Aadu Must. And now we have a new chair, we should dismantle the coalition agreement and start again."

Center had in autumn also put pressure on Aadu Must, currently city council chair, to resign. While it has rowed back on that, current Center Party leader in Tartu Jaan Toots says he is harming the party.

Klaas went on to say that Center leader and prime minister, Jüri Ratas, when visiting the city and the party, made it clear that he and the party saw no need to scrap the coalition agreement and start again.

"Unfortunately, such conflicting signals do not encourage a working atmosphere," said Klaas.

The Reform Party in Tartu was scheduled to meet with SDE on Tuesday following the collapse of the Reform-Center coalition Monday night.

Klaas said that Reform had common ground with SDE (both parties make up the opposition at the national level-ed.) which results from a culture of cooperation at Tartu city government level, he said.

SDE had supported adopting the Tartu city budget in December, despite being in opposition.

Klaas also stressed a need to maintain the education sector, as well as kindergartens.

"If they do not develop, if we do not contribute together, we may not do so well on the PISA tests and in society as a whole," he said.

Estonian schoolchildren topped the European nations in the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, announced in early December.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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