The leader of the opposition Isamaa, Helir-Valdor Seeder, has called for the party's general assembly to meet in June, subject to party board approval.
While earlier media reports had stated Seeder had wanted to wait until after the autumn local elections, he now says that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allow a large outdoor gathering to go ahead, just before midsummer.
In an address to party members, which ERR's online news in Estonian got hold of, Seeder said that his proposal of holding the meeting, on June 20, just before the Jaanipäev (midsummer) break, was: "Based on a previous decision by the board to convene the party's general assembly in a physical form as soon as possible, in accordance with the rules due to restrictions."
The timing of the general assembly meeting has caused tensions within a party already facing an internal challenge to its estabilshed order from a faction dubbed the "Right-wingers" (Parempoolsed) who, despite their name, if anything represent the left of the party on social issues and were originally founded in response to criticisms that Isamaa had become little more than an [far-right former coalition partner] "EKRE-lite".
Additionally, a wholesale attempt last month to transfer the 400-strong membership of a right-wing group, Rahva Tahe, set up ahead of the 2019 general election, via the use of inducements and egged-on by a social media "influencer", while it failed, further pointed to fault lines within Isamaa.
The party recently said that critics from within its ranks could face expulsion too.
Seeder had originally proposed holding the general assembly after October's local elections, and faced push-back as a result. He is expected to stand for reelection in June, while former prosecutor general Lavly Perling, a member of the "Parempoolsed" faction, is expected to run against him.
Seeder proposed holding the general assembly at Tartu Song Festival Grounds on June 20, with elections to the party's code of conduct and auditing bodies to take place, alongside an assessment of MPs' activities – Isamaa has 12 – its former ministers (the party left office in January) and its sole MEP (Riho Terras), as well as the leadership election itself.
Seeder said the decision to hold the assembly as soon as possible and before the summer break had already been taken by the board, while the easing of restrictions and falling coronavirus rates in recent weeks enabled this to happen, if the meeting was held outdoors and followed all safety recommendations.
If a board meeting on May 26 approves Seeder's proposal, the meeting will go ahead.
"If everything goes according to plan, we'll be able to meet for a while before Victory Day (June 23)," Seeder said.
Had the meeting been put back to later in the year, it would have in effect meant Seeder got an extra year added on to his original term as leader, which he was elected to in 2017.
Editor: Andrew Whyte