Isamaa expels mass membership drive organizer

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Isamaa paraphernalia from the party's 2020 board meeting. Source: ERR

Isamaa has expelled a party member behind the wholesale transfer of members from an anti-immigration group, and has also chosen not to process the applications of his followers, citing damage to the party's reputation.

Madis Sütt was former leader of the Rahva Tahe non-parliamentary party whose members, around 400 of them, joined Isamaa's Tartu branch the Saturday before last, which would have boosted overall party membership by over 5 percent in the process, had they been admitted.

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said Tuesday that: "The party's leadership condemns activities which damage the reputation of Isamaa. Based on the information published last week, it became clear that Madis Sütt could not continue as a member of the Isamaa party."

Isamaa leadership had in addition decided not to admit those people who had joined alongside Sütt.

"Yesterday (Monday - ed.) a meeting of the Tartu regional branch board took place, and the Tartu region proposed expelling Madis Sütt from the ranks of party membership," Seeder went on.

Sütt had previously led Rahva Tahe, joining Isamaa in January and, as noted, around 400 former Rahva Tahe members would have followed suit, given the chance.

Süüt's campaign leader, Alina Berbebeljuh, a social media influencer, had posted at least one, expletive-laden video inviting Rahv Tahe members to join Isamaa and offering to lay on public transport to the party's internal elections in May.

A raffle with prizes had also been offered as an enticement, it is reported, a tactic which Süüt had used in the past with Rahva Tahe, which had offered the prize of a mobile phone during a previous campaign drive.

Isamaa has been in opposition at the national level since January, and regularly polls only slightly above the 5 percent threshold to win Riigikogu (or local) seats under Estonia's modified d'Hondt system of proportional representation.

The party has also seen a challenge from what might be called its left-wing which, nonetheless, in Estonian is called "Parempoolsed" ("Right wingers"), while leading members from the more socially liberal wing have in recent months expressed opposition to a canned referendum on the definition of marriage, sponsored by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) while it was in office with Isamaa and Center.

Founded in 2018, Rahva Tahe's website is currently offline.

Reinsalu: Sütt's actions were unacceptable

Leading Isamaa member and former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said later on Tuesday that Sütt's actions had been unacceptable.

Appearing on ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio", Reinsalu said that: "I think it's important that when a mess arises, things are clear and unambiguous," adding he hoped in the future he would avoid such situations.

Reinsalu denied there was internal strife with Isamaa regarding the "Parempoolsed", but rather a debate or discussion going on, which would clarify the party's worldview.

"Within Isamaa, the assumption is truth has not come from God, but the truth will be revealed via debate," he said, saying the party in his estimation espouses a right-of-center, pro-EU, national-conservative line

He also said that the general assembly should be held ahead of summer, rather than postponed to after October's local elections, as currently is the case.

This article was updated to include Urmas Reinsalu's comments.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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