Most parties not campaigning on nationality at Tallinn local elections

Urmas Reinsalu campaigning for Isamaa in Tallinn. The leaflet says
Urmas Reinsalu campaigning for Isamaa in Tallinn. The leaflet says "Sweep the Square". Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallinn Center Party politicians have said rival parties are raising nationality as an issue in the election campaigns. While Isamaa has said Center holds on to power by appealing to Russian-Estonians, other parties do not consider the issue to be important.

The Tallinn opposition campaign is built on ethnic antagonism and the Center Party is the only one to stand up for both Estonians and Russians, Center Party MEP Yana Toom, who is running North Tallinn (Põhja-Tallinn), has said.

"People are not split into friends and foes in Tallinn where Center has the absolute majority – all our people, irrespective of their language and color of passport, are citizens of Tallinn. And they need to be represented," Toom said.

ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) looked into the issue on Sunday and spoke to mayoral candidates from Center, Reform, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE).

Toom's fellow party member current Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart said raising the nationality questions is not right, topical or modern. This is not a criticism of Toom, he said, because she is simply saying what other parties are doing. 

"If we want to win the election, we have to offer the concept of urban development. I'm sure our competitors can do that, and that's what we're ready to argue about," Kõlvart said.

Former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu, the Isamaa party's candidate for mayor of Tallinn, said the issue of values is the most important factor in the upcoming elections.

"It is an honest confession by Yana Toom. In fact, the Center Party asserts its power with a pro-Russian attitude. Isamaa says that in the interests of the entire Estonian people, the Estonian state, pro-Estonian politics and the Estonian language would be protected," he said AK.

Raimond Kaljulaid, mayoral candidate for SDE, said people are much more interested in topics such as road maintenance, public transport, health care, social services and other parts of city life. 

"This topic will not take off, people are not interested. I have not seen a voter who is worried about the nationality issue yet. Maybe, in the end, Yana Toom is the only voter who cares about this topic," Kaljulaid told AK.

Reform's mayoral candidate Kristen Michal said the biggest fight will be between Center and EKRE is Lasnamäe, Tallinn's largest district which has a big Russian-speaking population.

"EKRE is very aggressive, [EKRE deputy chairman] Mart Helme, especially, is trying to please the Russian electorate and Yana Toom will try to discourage him," Michal said.

EKRE chairman Martin Helme did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The Center Party has historically had a large share of Russian-speaking voters. In recent months, EKRE has been open in admitting that it will target these voters in the run up to the local elections.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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