Brexit may bar UK national running in local elections again

Abdul Turay with Nigel Farage last year.
Abdul Turay with Nigel Farage last year. Source: Abdul Turay

Brexit has cast doubt on the political future of a British national, who was next in line to take up a Tallinn city council seat left vacant after a Center Party councilor had to step down after being found guilty of corruption activities.

Abdul Turay, who ran for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in the 2013 local elections, was Center Party alternate member under Estonia's proportional representation electoral system, and would have taken Kalev Kallo's place.

Kallo had to quit both the city chambers and the Riigikogu, where he also held a seat, after being found guilty last year of facilitating bribery and illegal donations, as a co-defendant in the long-running, multi-faceted Edgar Savisaar case, named after the party's co-founder and former Tallinn mayor.

Turay in fact first took up a city council seat on that basis; the 516 votes he obtained in 2013 were not sufficient to win a seat in his own right, but the modified d'Hondt proportional representation system Estonia uses permits excess votes from candidates who clinch seats to be redistributed to those lower down on a party's ordered list.

However, following the U.K.'s departure from the EU at the end of 2020, Turay is not eligible to even be a Center Party member, leave alone take up a seat, ERR's Russian-language portal reports (link in Russian).

Party membership only open to EU citizens

Center's Secretary General, Andre Hanimägi, told ERR that: "Unfortunately, he has to leave the party," based on the provisions of the Political Parties Act.

Turay, who won a Tallinn city council seat for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in 2013 before moving to Center, rejects this, however.

"At the time of joining the Center Party, I was an EU citizen," he told ERR Russian's Sergei Mihhailov.

"In my opinion, the law cannot be applied retroactively," he went on, adding that he plans to take legal advice.

At the same time, coronavirus-related travel restrictions would bar him from easily traveling to Estonia from the U.K., where he currently resides.

Turay meanwhile ran for the Nigel Farage-founded Brexit Party (now known as Reform UK) in the Tottenham constituency – David Lammy's (Labour) seat – in the December 2019 U.K. general election.

He has not left the Center Party, he says, adding that the situation would be simpler if Estonia would permit dual citizenship.

Turay, 54, a former Postimees journalist, switched parties to Center ahead of the 2017 local elections (he also ran in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, picking up 865 votes), but did not win a seat via any means that time.

He also told ERR Russian that he did not represent the ex-pat vote in Estonia as such, since that demographic does not consider him British, on the grounds of his ethnicity, adding that Center leader, Jüri Ratas betrayed him by entering office with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) – something he, Turay, thought Center would never do. This had made Turay political outcast, he said.

Jüri Ratas, elected Riigikogu speaker on Thursday, was unavailable for comment on the matter when contacted by ERR Russian.

Estonian residents of any citizenship can vote in this October's local elections; EU citizens are eligible to stand for office, which others have done in the past, in addition to Turay.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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