Isamaa leader: Things turning ugly inside the party

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Isamaa chief, Helir-Valdor Seeder. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

An ongoing power struggle within the opposition Isamaa party is turning ugly, the party's leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder, says.

Speaking on daily Postimees' podcast Thursday, Seeder hit out at comparisons drawn between him and Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Kristjan Vanaselja, a member of Isamaa faction Parempoolsed ("Right-wingers" - if anything the left-wing of the Isamaa party – ed.), made the comparison, which Seeder called: "The assessment and opinion of the leader of the Right-wingers. The actual situation is that it is instead the small group of Right-wingers within our party that could be compared with Orban, and Fidesz, as the group has positioned itself in opposing to the majority, the core positions and the leaders of the party," Seeder, who recently called for internal Isamaa critics and opponents to be ejected, said.

In fact, the Right-wingers were if anything worse than Orban, Seeder went on.

"Viktor Orban has sharply positioned himself within the European People's Party as opposing the rest of the party and criticized its leaders. However, Orban has never been as nasty and aggressive in his statements as the Right-wingers have in Isamaa. This comparison applies to the Right-wingers and they are the ones who should take a good look in the mirror," he added.

The Right-wingers faction, formed last year, does not have broad party support, BNS reports, while members such as Vanaselja are paying scant regard to the party's best practices, Seeder says, not for the first time.

Seeder, however, was careful to qualify his words by saying some dissent in Isamaa – which found itself out of office in January this year and holds 12 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu, plus one MEP – was permissible.

"We're talking about public denigration here, however, not diverging opinions. These are two completely different things," he said, adding that whether Vanaselja would be expelled or not had not been yet ruled on.

The Right-wingers have some cross-over with a more socially liberal wing of the generally national-conservative Isamaa, as evidenced by several leading MPs' opposition to an abortive referendum on the definition of marriage, championed by Isamaa's former coalition partner, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), late last year.

Isamaa routinely polls around 5 percent in research surveys, the minimum figure required to obtain seats at the Riigikogu, under Estonia's modified d'Hondt system of proportional representation. This benchmark also applies in the autumn local elections.

However, the party polled at around the same level a few months before the March 2019 general election, and still picked up 12 seats, an increase of one on the previous Riigikogu session – and, after entering office with Center and EKRE the following month – some of the choicest ministerial positions, particularly foreign, defense and justice.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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