Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder says that expelling members who are candidates in next month's local elections but who go against the party line is justified, in order to present the party's platform more clearly to the electorate.
He denies charges of acting dictatorially, in the wake of something of a night of the long knives for Isamaa on Tuesday, one which saw a dozen members expelled for running for local electoral alliances rather than on the Isamaa list, including Paide mayor Priit Värk, who is running for a local electoral alliance in the Järva County town.
Seeder said Wednesday that: "I, as party leader, do desire that Isamaa be a confederation of like-minded people who have some kind of perceptible worldview, and where people act as a team, particularly at election time."
"If a party member is a mayor, who puts an electoral list together with another party member and participates in that alliance against the party while most local party members run on the party list, the voter will surely be confused as to which choice to make and who actually represents Isamaa," he continued, adding that this was backed by the party's statutes and its past actions in such cases.
11 more people were also expelled from Isamaa, for the same reason.
Seeder rejected that the Värk expulsion relates to differing viewpoints on the party's line, and reiterated a need for clarity.
"We do not have another party within Isamaa, and we follow this principle. We are not some vague and unclear social group, which gets involved in Estonian politics," he went on.
"We haven't ejected anyone due to their principles. It is a matter of concrete action which goes against the party," he continued.
While only a few party members had received the same treatment for the same reason in the past, however, Seeder said that this approach could become standard practice in future.
Kristjan Vanaselja, chair of the party's Parempoolsed group, said that Seeder's actions would harm the party at election time, however.
He said: "Unfortunately, Seeder has chosen a different path and has autocratically started to get rid of those people who are not suitable for him before the election. This divides the party, and jeopardizes our joint effort sto achieve a good result in the election."
Ten of the 22 Isamaa members running on electoral alliances – municipality-specific groups of candidates which focus on local issues – have not been excluded so far, Vanaselja added, and said that Seeder has been looking for ways to facilitate ejecting people for some time.
While Värk was the main scalp in the recent cull, in addition to two other Isamaa members running on the Uus Paide electoral list, several more candidates, running in Lüganuse in Ida-Viru County, Rapla municipality, Kohtla-Järve municipality, Haapsalu town, Mustvee village, North Sakala municipality and Saku municipality have similarly been kicked out of Isamaa, and for the same given reason.
Vanaselja added that the decision on Tuesday was an unpleasant surprise when announced at a party meeting and that Seeder had not clearly explained his decision at that time.
As to the issue of why the expulsions had not been across the board, Seeder said that in some cases, candidates work together with the party despite running on an electoral alliance list.
He said: "We review all individual cases because the reasons are different. In some municipalities, our people work together consciously."
The Parempoolsed arose last year and was involved in a leadership challenge at the Isamaa extended board meeting in June, via former prosecutor general Lavly Perling. Seeder survived the vote comfortably and remains leader; Perling is running for Isamaa in Saue on October 17.
Editor: Andrew Whyte