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IRL mulls change in leadership after weak returns

The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), a conservative party of two former prime ministers and a broad base across the country, is mulling its options, up to and including a change in leadership, after finishing fourth in the elections and posting its worst performance in years.

The party will meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss further steps and possibly the fate of current leader Urmas Reinsalu after the party finished fourth with only 14 seats, nine fewer than in 2011, a strong year.

Under 80,000 people countrywide voted for IRL, which wasn't significantly weak in any of the 12 districts but failed to challenge for the lead in any of them. The Reform Party pulled in almost double the votes and more than twice the number of seats.

This was despite a strong 11th-hour performance in the prime minister candidates' debate by former prime minister Juhan Parts.

Missteps attributed to the party are many, including even the selection of Parts as PM candidate (other parties' chairmen were the candidates for prime minister). The party was also perceived as using overly transparent tactics to lure voters, such as putting a TV host high up on the list.

In an interview with Delfi, Parts said he shared responsibility with Reinsalu, but defended the party's program, including the central pledge of tax reform. "If we look at the biggest problem in Estonia's development, it's that there's a very large number of people who can't make ends meet," he said. IRL promised that people making under 500 euros a month would not have to pay income tax.

At the same time, IRL "underestimated the new message" delivered by the two newcomers to Parliament, Free Party and Conservative People's Party (EKRE). "Our program is very adequate, whether it's on tax reform or administrative reform," Parts said. "But the first thing that people preferred was a new message, now we have to find out what the new message was, why people supported Free Party and EKRE."

He said the Free Party, although sometimes regarded as an IRL spinoff, had some left-wing and populist ideas in its platform.

Editor: K. Rikken

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