The Center Party has decided to return a donation of €50,000 because there has been too much speculation in the media, said party secretary general Mihhail Korb (Center). Riigikogu opposition states that PM Jüri Ratas (Center) should take political responsibility and Reform is considering a motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister.
ERR News wrote in April that the ruling Center Party received €108,705 in donations in the first quarter, with €50,000 donated by little-known businesswoman Jana-Helen Juhaste. The donation was made to support worldviews of the ruling party.
Wekkly Eesti Ekspress published an article (link in Estonian) in which it was discovered that the donated money actually originates from businessman Martin Künnap, who has various business interests in Tallinn, most notably the Tallinn Hippodrome (Tallinna Hipodroom).
"We have spoken to the donor and have no reason to doubt their positions. We absolutely believe them but the situation in the media which can lead to speculations, has led us to return the donation," said Center Party secretary general Mihhail Korb.
ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" asked Korb if he feels political responsibility to step back from his position. "That question is like lightning out of the blue. What a question! We should definitely learn from this situation," Korb replied.
Chariman of Reform Party Kaja Kallas said that the Center Party is holding back on explanations about the donation in question. The two opposition parties think Prime Minister Jüri Ratas should take political responsibility for the handling of the donation.
"The donation was made in January and no questions were asked, even their secretary general said they see no reason to contact the donor. In April, when everyone found about the donation and the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) started asking questions, things were put into motion and a bill was presented to remove ERJK totally. /.../ If the Prime Minister can not tell the truth to his people, he should step back," said Kallas.
"After the prosecuter's office has taken their respective steps next week, we'll make a decision. We certainly won't exclude no-confidence as an option," she added.
ERJK currently awaits the position of the prosecuter's office, in which the Commission suspects the donation was made on someone else's behalf.
"Offense is carried out from the moment the donation was accepted. And if there is proof that it was not made from personal assets, prosecution has to think how to act next," said Chairman of ERJK, Social Democrat Liisa Oviir.
Oviir said that under the proposed bill to abolish ERJK, the National Audit Office of Estonia would only gain responsibility to verify budgetary assets of the parties, private assets would not fit under Audit's domain.
"National Audit can check monthly state support to parties. This is great, it's important, but unfortunately cases about private assets, such as this Juhaste case, would not be checked," Oviir explained.
Riigikogu awaits changes to the proposed bill to abolish ERJK until June 15.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste