The Supreme Court of Estonia dismissed Edgar Savisaar’s appeal of the administrative and circuit court judgments dismissing his appeal of the injunction issued by Estonian Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK) regarding the use of prohibited donations in an election campaign. Savisaar must thus reimburse over 117,000 euros of the City of Tallinn’s money spent on self-advertising.
The Supreme Court primarily deliberated over whether the Political Parties Act allows the ERJK to inspect the activity of a political party member and issue them a mandatory injunction as well as whether the ERJK had correctly qualified the disputed events as prohibited donations, Supreme Court Communications Specialist Liis Linn told ERR’s online news portal.
The Supreme Court found that the ERJK has the right to inspect the compliance of the activity of a candidate running on a party list with the Political Parties Act as well as issue mandatory injunctions to candidates running on a party list.
“A prohibited donation is also that when a local government, i.e. legal entity, pays for advertisements whose aim was to promote a party member in an effort to influence voters and not the promotion of the public interest or public tasks,” noted the country’s top court. “A member of a political party thereby receives a financially valued asset from a legal entity. A party member is prohibited from accepting financially valued assets from a legal entity, however.
Pursuant to the Political Parties Act, an injunction of the ERJK requires anyone who has run on a party list to transfer a donation to the state budget.
The Supreme Court noted that the obligation posed by the injunction to return a prohibited donation to the City of Tallinn as the maker of said donation instead of transferring it to the state budget cannot violate the appellant’s rights as it does not worsen the appellant’s situation compared to the obligation to transfer the prohibited donation to the state budget.
The Supreme Court fund that while this provision of the Political Parties Act is poorly worded, the provision allows for the issuing of the injunction to an individual who ran for office in a party list to return the donations to the entity that had made them, i.e. the City of Tallinn.
The Supreme Court agreed with the positions and reasoning of the lower courts that advertisements on display in a public place — in this case the advertisement for the opening of Hiiu Stadium, the advertisement for the “Tallinn moves” campaign and commercial advertisements run on the PBK channel — constituted a prohibited donation.
Thus, the ERJK’s injunction remained in place with which Edgar Savisaar is ordered to pay 116,642 euros and 89 cents in prohibited donations back to the City of Tallinn.
In response to ERR’s query regarding under what conditions the city government will get the money back from Savisaar, the Tallinn City Government’s press service responded that the city government had not yet been able to review the substantial judgment and form a position on the matter.
In August and September 2013, advertisements featuring Center Party members Jaanus Mutli, Edgar Savisaar and Arvo Sarapuu were displayed in Tallinn inviting people to the events surrounding the opening of the city’s Hiiu Stadium. The total cost of the Hiiu Stadium advertisements was 11,000 euros, which was paid for from the City of Tallinn’s sports and youth agency budget and of which one third, or 3,667 euros, has already been returned to the city by Arvo Sarapuu.
From August to late October 2013, ads for the “Tallinn moves” campaign featuring Edgar Savisaar and calling upon people to participate in the Tallinn Marathon and preparatory training were run on various TV and radio stations. The total costs of the commercial clips amounted to 100,842 euros and 69 cents, which was paid for from the City of Tallinn’s sports and youth agency budget.
From Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2013, Russian-language ads were run on the PBK channel in which Edgar Savisaar invited people to participate in 2013 municipal council elections. The total costs of the PBK ads was 8,467 euros and 20 cents, which was paid for by Tallinn City Council.
Edgar Savisaar ran in the 2013 municipal council elections on the Center Party list, however the Center Party report on the election campaign of the 2013 municipal council elections did not reflect that these ads were paid for by the party or by Edgar Savisaar.
Ratas: Party leadership must discuss issue
While the Center Party has previously paid Savisaar’s legal fees, according to recently elected party chairman Jüri Ratas, the party’s board of directors must discuss who will pay back the money spent on advertising Savisaar.
“First of all, I understand that there is a question regarding from whom this cost will be recovered,” Ratas told ETV’s news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.” “If it is demanded of a private person, then [the obligation to pay] must be assumed by said private person. But the party’s board of directors must discuss this issue, naturally. The party’s board of directors has not convened today; it will be convening on Monday morning.
“It is conceivable that first of all Edgar Savisaar must be gotten in touch with and this issue discussed with him,” Ratas continued, adding that he would certainly not provide blank acceptance that the party would immediately begin paying the sum for their longtime former chairman.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla