Previously ousted Mayor of Narva Aleksei Jevgrafov, along with 13 other members of the Kodulinn Narva ("Hometown Narva") political group in Narva have joined the Center Party, restoring the party's power in the city after an attempted power shift by opposition group Meie Narva ("Our Narva").
The recent development now casts considerable doubt over the possibility of creating a new coalition in the city of Narva as a combination of the Meie Narva opposition group, led by Social Democrat MP Katri Raik, and the currently in power Center Party.
After the coup of former Narva mayor Aleksei Jevgrafov in early-November, the city's leadership has been in flux. While supporters of the ousted mayor have begun an initiative to re-elect Jevgrafov, Raik has been vocal in wanting to become mayor of Narva, saying she would leave her position in the Riigikogu to become mayor, calling it her "dream job".
On Monday, MEP Yana Toom, head of Center's Narva region, notified ERR's Russian news portal of Jevgrafov's step into the ranks of the Center Party. "On Friday, December 11, Aleksei Jevgrafov and his team submitted applications to become members of the Center Party. The region's decision will now be discussed by the party's leadership. I do not think anyone expected such a turn of events," Toom said.
The news was confirmed by Jevgrafov and former city council chairwoman Irina Janovitš. Only two members of the Kodulinn Narva group - Larissa Olenina and Aleksei Mägi - did not submit an application to join Center.
Kodulinn Narva was planning to participate in local elections in 2021 on their own list, led by Jevgrafov, Janovitš and former city council chairman Aleksandr Jefimov, who was removed some time ago following convictions in a separate corruption case.
The Center Party will likely now go to local elections in Narva with a unified list of candidates.
The party's political group in Narva now holds nine seats of the 31-member city council, Kodulinn Narva has 14 members, opposition Meie Narva has seven and Center Party member Mihhail Stalnuhhin does not belong to any groups.
On Friday, ERR News wrote that the election of the new mayor of Narva and the chairman of the city council has been pushed back to December 30.
Raik: Pity if everything in Narva continues as it has for the last 20 years
Leader of the Our Narva faction and a Social Democrat member of the Riigikogu Katri Raik promised to continue to fight to become mayor of Narva and said she regretted that the Center Party continues to run the city.
Raik told ERR on Monday: "I call on all MEPs to take this issue seriously, a lot depends on their decision. There is a very serious situation in the city with regard to the coronavirus. People need help. Now is not the time for protracted disputes, but a decision must be made."
Raik raised the results of a survey commissioned by their group and conducted by Norstat which shows half of Narva residents are concerned about keeping their jobs. Additionally, 22 percent said the city's biggest problem is corruption and a lack of a vision for development.
She said coup initiated by her group is an attempt to change the current situation in the city: "To make it more transparent, clearer, understandable, to involve more people, to dismantle the twenty-year-old system."
She added that is power remained with the Center Party then nothing will change in the city.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste