Center Party looks likely to continue Sillamäe dominance after elections

Sillamäe's distinctive town center.
Sillamäe's distinctive town center. Source: Margus Müür

The eastern Estonian town of Sillamäe looks set to remain a Center Party stronghold after the October 17 local elections and its candidates dominate the local electoral list. Not all those who ran for the party in the last local elections in 2017 are happy about this, however.

Of the 73 candidates running in the Ida-Viru County town of 12,000 people, 56 are from the Center Party.

Three major parties – Reform, Isamaa and Eesti 200 are not even running candidates in Sillamäe in this month's local elections.

Not all Center Party members are happy with this state of affairs, however.

Oleg Kultajev, who picked up the most votes in the town in the last local elections in 2017 is not running this time, and says that he sometimes feel ashamed of his home-town.

He said: "Observing what is happening in Sillamäe, one gets the feeling that some laws apply in Sillamäe alone, and everything happening in Sillamäe works differently than elsewhere in Estonia. At least I have the impression that the city is run by someone other than the city government."

Kultajev has now moved away from the city and is not involved in politics.

Another idiosyncrasy of Sillamäe is that a higher-than-average proportion of candidates, close to 80 percent, have higher education, ERR reports.

Of possible opposition, Gulnara Sidorenko, the Social Democrats (SDE) number one candidate, says she hopes for half-a-dozen from her party on the city council.

Sidorenko said: "Our list is short, but it males up for that in quality," adding that noone had been cajoled into running, nor were "subordinate" candidates being run.

"We also do not use administrative resources in elections," she added.

The city's current Center Party mayor, Tõnis Kalberg, said that a key issue in the coming years is for the city government to be able to have a say in issues related to the Green Turn.

"I think the people who get elected from our list have experience and a very thorough knowledge of the areas we work in," he said of the upcoming election.

Center holds 15 of the 21 Sillamäe city government seats meaning that, as in Tallinn, it has an absolute majority and is not in coalition with anyone.

In addition to Center and Reform, three candidates are running in a local electoral alliance, and two are running for the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

In Estonia's modified d'Hondt system of proportional representation, parties and electoral alliances run ordered lists, with candidates reaching the threshold number of votes required for a seat then distributing any excess to those lower down the list. This means that candidates who would not have won a seat in their own right, often get to do so via these redistributed votes.

For this reason, running "vote magnet" candidates - often popular politicians but also candidates more famous from the world of sport, entertainment or business - is standard practice. In some cases (eg. MEPs, government ministers), these candidates cannot even take up the seat that they won, which has the effect of promoting one more candidate who otherwise would not have gotten elected, into the vacancy left.

Candidates are required to reside in the municipality they run in, however, which sometimes leads to a candidate registering resident in that district temporarily, if they do not usually live there.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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