Speaking at separate press conferences scheduled an hour apart on Wednesday, longtime Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar announced that MP Peeter Ernits would be running for chairman of the party council while MP Jüri Ratas announced his intention to run against Savisaar for the chairmanship of the party itself at the party congress slated to take place on Nov. 5.
Savisaar opened his press conference, scheduled an hour prior to Ratas’, by greeting the press on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Center Party and announcing that MP Peeter Ernits would be running for chairman of the party council and MP Marika Tuus-Laul for vice-chair.
"We have no plan whatsoever to compete with anyone," said Savisaar, referring to the Kadri Simson-Ratas wing of the Center Party. He nonetheless confirmed, however, that he himself would still be running to defend his position as chairman of the party in November.
"I have repeatedly said during this year-long, exhausting party civil war that we should talk to each other," said Ernits, commenting on the schism evident in the 25-year-old party. "Unfortunately my suggestion was only realized in May."
According to the MP, members of the Center Party finally got together in the spring and spent two and a half hours speaking freely to one another. He did not find it normal to have such difficulties in communicating. "The Center Party deserves unity, but the only chance for this is by talking to one another," he stressed.
Ernits said in an interview given to ERR following the press conference that he considered it likely that he may have to run against the party’s opposing wing, but he considered himself a mediator between the two rival wings.
He also considered Savisaar the key to making peace within the party, referring to the party’s founder as a calm and balanced person, and likewise cited current party council chairman Kalev Kallo’s words in describing the party’s current conflict not as a party crisis but rather the problem of just four or five ambitious people who are incapable of communication.
Ratas: The time is ripe to elect a new chairman
At a press conference beginning an hour later, MP and Second Vice-President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas confirmed that he was prepared to run for chairman of the Center Party at the extraordinary party congress scheduled for Nov. 5.
He recalled that once before, five years ago, he had already run for party chairman, and that this decision was not an emotionally-based one. "I have thought through for myself the main reason why I will be [running for chairman again] and I think that that is responsibility," explained Ratas.
"We want for this party to continue to last," he said, adding that if the party has spent the past ten years in the opposition, then the responsibility arises to make sure the party is better heard.
Ratas cited bringing the party’s financial matters into order and the abandoning of certain patterns of behavior as his priorities for the leadership of the party.
"I think that the time is ripe within the Center Party to elect a new party chairman," he said.
Ratas, who found that a more appropriate role for Savisaar would be honorary party chairman and expressed hope that the incumbent chairman would not leave the party and found a new one in the event of his loss in November, noted that he didn’t consider there to be separate wings in the party, but rather one Center Party.
"I don’t see a single obstacle to cooperation with a single parliamentary group member — not now, and not in the future," said Ratas.
Location for congress yet unconfirmed
According to the proposal of the Center Party Board of Directors, the extraordinary congress scheduled for Nov. 5 should take place in the central Estonian town of Paide.
Savisaar and Ernits found that it would be more reasonable to hold it in Tallinn so that more people could make it, however Ratas pointed out that the final decision regarding its location rests with the Center Party Council.
The party council will be discussing the convocation of the extraordinary congress on Saturday.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla