SDE leader to run in Tallinn, has to re-register residence address

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Indrek Saar at the Riigikogu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Social Democratic Party (SDE) chair Indrek Saar is to run in the affluent Tallinn district of Nõmme in October's local elections, despite usually residing in another county. Saar, who is also a Riigikogu MP, says rules which required him to change his place of residence to Tallinn ahead of the election are outdated, and need reforming.

Saar's policy platform includes the environment and road safety, he says.

He told ERR Thursday: "As elsewhere in Tallinn, it is important for the Social Democrats that Nõmme's roads and streets are comfortable and safe for all road users - pedestrians and cyclists, and others."

"Nõmme stands out from many other districts in terms of its nature and forest, and it is very important that this biodiversity remains," he went on.

Eight councilors of the 79 total at the capital's council chambers are elected from Nõmme district.

Saar ran in Mustamäe at the last local elections, polling 1,143 votes.

SDE's Tallinn mayoral candidate Raimond Kaljulaid said that having as big a name as Saar run in Nõmme demonstrates just how important the district is to them.

Kaljulaid, said: "Last time, the Social Democrats got more votes in Nõmme than the Center Party, who lead the city. This time we definitely want to protect and maintain our positions in Nõmme."

Nõmme's previous "vote magnet" in the district had been Rainer Vakra, who picked up 3,296 votes in 2017. Vakra has left politics and is now working in the private sector.

The remaining districts in Tallinn are: Lasnamäe (which elects 16 councillors), Mustamäe (11 seats), Põhja Tallinn (10), Kesklinn (10), Haabersti (nine), Kristiine (eight) and Pirita (seven).

Election day is October 17.

One qualification which must be made to Saar's candidacy is that he does not live in Nõmme, and is registered resident in the village of Loobu, Lääne-Viru County.

Under electoral law, a candidate's permanent residence must be within the local authority where they are running.

For this reason, many candidates change their address registration shortly before the election.

Saar told ERR Thurday that the system was not ideal.

He said: "The current situation is not reasonable, because there are a lot of examples where a person's interests and contacts are in one municipality, but their actual place of residence is in another."

"An individual can go to work in a larger population center during the day, where his children may also study at school or go training, making it possible to use the benefits of the larger center, but the tax money goes to the smaller municipality, where they only spend their night-times," he said.

The reverse might also be the case, he added, where an individual uses services in their place of residence in the evenings and on weekends, but pays tax in another, larger municipality.

Saar suggested individuals be permitted to register in several places of residence, with their tax payments divided between the related local authorities.

Candidates needed to have registered their place of residence a month ago, if they want to run in October's election in that municipality, the state electoral committee told ERR Thursday.

Saar confirmed he had registered in Tallinn already, ahead of the election.

Saar is also a Riigikogu MP. Dividing time between Toompea and a council seat, particularly in Tallinn, where the Riigikogu and city council chambers are within walking distance of each other, is quite standard practice, with almost half of the 101 MPs also holding a local government seat somewhere in Estonia.

Estonia's modified d'Hondt system of proportional representation lends itself to "vote magnet" candidates strategically distributed nationwide (save for in the European elections, where Estonia is treated as a single district).

These candidates are often celebrities, such as sportspeople and actors. Saar himself is a trained actor.

Once the high-profile candidate has met the threshold of votes to win a seat, any excess is distributed to less popular candidates, lower down the ordered party list.

This often enables candidates to get seats, even at the Riigikogu, with just a few hundred votes in their own right.

Additionally, candidates can run and then not take up a seat – for instance after Riigikogu elections if they get made a government minister. Another loophole allows Estonia's seven MEPs to run in the local elections, but not take up a seat.

When this happens, the next candidate on the list takes their place, though if the original seat-winner returns to the Riigikogu, or local municipality, the "benchwarmer" deputy must vacate.

Finally, candidates can run for a party without being a member of that party.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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