A total of 384 candidates are registered to run at the local elections in Tartu city, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Wednesday night. While a trend observed in Tallinn and Harju County for a decline in the number of electoral alliances, as opposed to parties, is the case in Tartu as well, the one electoral alliance which has been registered is headed up by an individual who has in the past made terror threats.
The electoral alliance in Tartu, called Südamega Tartu, is headed up by Meelis Kaldalu, an individual preemptively detained during U.S. President Barack Obama's 2014 visit to Estonia and who in 2017 allegedly issued a bomb threat against public broadcaster ERR.
Kaljdalu is under criminal investigation over the 2017 incident and is in effect on the run from authorities, but still reportedly presented the electoral application in person, at Tartu city government offices.
Tartu electoral committee chair Jüri Mölder said that it was not apparent to staff that it was Kaldalu who was handing over the documents at the time, adding that even if it had been, his status wouldn't have impinged on the democratic process.
Mölder told AK that: "The moment when the documents were handed over came so fleetingly that it was impossible to be sure exactly who it was. It only became clear later that it had been Meelis Kaldalu."
"Under current law, anyone who has not been deprived of the right to vote can run in the elections. Whether a person is wanted [by the authorities] or not is not really decisive when submitting documents," Mölder added.
Tartu is a Reform Party stronghold in much the same way that Tallinn is a Center Party bastion.
Of other additions to Tartu's electoral lists, Eesti 200, which did not exist in 2017 when the last local elections were held, and the Green Party stand out.
Tartu-specific issues for these two parties and the others too include the urban environment and green spaces.
The Greens' Tartu mayoral candidate Johanna Maria Tõugu told AK that: "Nonetheless, it is common knowledge that the Greens are experts on this subject. While the Reform Party may talk about how green they are, in fact their Green Plan has not really been implemented. "
"Our goal is to create a viable action plan which will actually meet these green goals as well," Tõugu went on.
Meanwhile a nascent electoral alliance, Tartu Eest ("For Tartu") which campaigned against the construction of a cultural center in the city's Keskpark has been melded into Eesti 200's list, a move which Tanel Tein, the alliance's leader, said was a strategic move aimed at consolidating opposition to Reform.
Tein said: "If we look at the popularity of Eesti 200 in Estonia, there is hope. Now Eesti 200 is on the scene to take votes from everyone, there is an opportunity to change things. A new situation can arise, and then a coalition of several parties is possible, not just with two or three. I'm personally hoping for four [parties]."
One independent candidate has also been registered; the overall number of 384 is 20 fewer than in 2017, AK reported.
Other changes Jüri Mölder had observed included the absence of some "voter magnets", including veteran Social Democratic Party (SDE) politician Marju Lauristin, and Center's Aadu Must.
Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation lends itself to big names running in the number one spot on a party's list, even if they have no intention (or no possibility) of taking up a seat. Any excess votes the candidate attracts over and above the threshold needed to win a seat are then distributed to candidates lower down on the party's ordered list.
This enables candidates who may not have won a seat in their own right, to nonetheless get elected.
Those not eligible to take up a seat include government ministers and MEPs, though most of these are running in October.
Polling day is October 17, preceded by a six-day advance voting period, when e-votes can be cast. Unlike in previous years there is no "dark period" of days between the advance period and polling day (e-voting closes at 8 p.m. on October 16), while, due to a change in electoral law, parties are now allowed to advertise outdoors up to and including polling day.
In the past, this was barred around six weeks before election day, though both online advertising, which was permissible, and stealth advertising via other means, occurred.
Electoral alliances tend to only appear in local elections and not in Estonia's other two direct elections – to the Riigikogu and to the European Parliament – and involve groups of candidates, often on platforms relating to that particular locale. As such they rival the main political parties.
Fewer have been registered for this October's election compared with previous polls, with only two listed in Tallinn, and the one in Tartu.
A full list of all candidates nationwide is likely to be ready and made publicly available online from September 15, the State Electoral Committee told ERR News.
Editor: Andrew Whyte