Center Party government ministers to run in local elections

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Center Party board meeting on Sunday, August 22, where the party voted in favor of Alar Karis as presidential candidate. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Center Party's cabinet members are likely to all run in the local elections in October, primarily in Tallinn, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik, says.

"All the ministers from the Center Party will participate in the local elections, but we will announce who is running in which district gradually. At the moment, I can say that most ministers are running in Tallinn, but there are also those who may do so outside the capital," Kiik said on Wednesday.

Kiik said that the Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani is running in Saue, just outside Tallinn.

Center has seven government ministers: In addition to Kiik and Jaani, Eva-Maria Liimets (foreign minister), Jaak Aab (public administration), Taavi Aas (economic affairs), Anneli Ott (culture) and Tõnis Mölder (environment) are also Center Party members.

Kiik said he is running in Tallinn, likely in North Tallinn. However, it is not yet clear who is the leading figure on the Center Party's list there Kiik or another major figure, MEP Yana Toom.

While government ministers are unlikely to find time to sit in local government chambers - they also don't sit in the Riigikogu and must vacate any seat on being appointed to cabinet - there is nothing to stop them running in an election.

The main rationale for doing this is to attract excess votes, over and above the threshold for a seat, which are then distributed to candidates lower on the party's list, under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation.

If they do not take up the seat, the next person on the list does instead, which can also have the effect of "promoting" a candidate to seat which they had not won in their own right.

MEPs are expressly not permitted to sit on a local government seat, the rules state, though efforts have been made to change that. Estonia has seven MEPs, who would also have to balance travel between Brussels and Tallinn, or wherever their local government seat might be, if the rules changed.

Riigikogu MPs can take up local government seats too, and just under half of them do (48 out of the 101-seat Riigikogu). Tallinn is a particularly practical option here as the city council chambers are a short walk down the hill from the Riigikogu.

Tanel Kiik also said that former Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps will not be running. Reps was forced to stand down late last year after misuse of ministry funds allegations emerged in the media, and has since stepped down as Center Party deputy chair.

On the other hand, Center's leader, Jüri Ratas, who is not a cabinet minister but is Riigikogu speaker, can, and will, run in the local elections, Kiik said.

"We have to manage even if the previous candidate cannot run in certain circumstances. However, for example, unlike the previous local elections, the party chair, Jüri Ratas, is now running," Kiik said.

Ratas usually runs in the Mustamäe district of Tallinn.

Commenting on assessments that the Center Party may lose its absolute majority in Tallinn this time, Kiik said that the same had been predicted in the past, but that the party still hopes to win a majority.

The Center Party intends to put out a list for between 50 and 60 municipalities nationwide, Kiik said.

The local government elections will take place on October 17.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte

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