Center loses a third of its council seats in Kohtla-Järve

Kohtla-Järve.
Kohtla-Järve. Source: ERR

The Center Party lost a third of their local government council seats in Kohtla-Järve and must now find a partner to join them for a coalition. At the same time, it is also possible for the long-time city government leader to fall into opposition.

Instead of the former three parties, five made it to the local government council. Center Party, which has been in power since the mid-1990s received 12 seats in the 25-member council, down from 18 the previous election cycle. The party's total number of votes went down from 7,688 in 2017 to 4,370 last week.

Center hopes to make a 14:11 coalition with their former partner Reform Party, Center Party Kohtla-Järve region chairman Valeri Korb told ERR on Monday. "Reform will remain our partner today because we worked with them for the previous four years. But if anyone else wants to join, they can and we can sit down and negotiate," Korb said.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE) had a good result in Kohtla-Järve, keeping their five seats in the council. MP Eduard Odinets, who has now been the most popular candidate in the city for two consecutive election cycles, said he hoped for an increase in the number of seats for SDE.

Odinets did not rule out the possibility of the four smaller electoral lists coming together to make a coalition. "The best thing for us would be a larger coalition, meaning everyone against Center. Then we could prove what we can do," he said.

The MP said he can envision the large coalition failing, however. "We have repeatedly seen here in Kohtla-Järve that people change sides overnight, which is why this minimal coalition is quite complicated. You never know how people will act," the long-time opposition leader said.

While joining Center for a coalition is acceptable for SDE, the intra-coalition 12:5 distribution of seats would still leave them in the role of little brother and make it difficult to implement their ideas.

Electoral alliance Restart Kohtla-Järve, which narrowly missed the council in the last election cycle, now received four seats. Alliance leader Jaanek Pahka said voters gave a clear message that they are not pleased with city leadership.

"This was a motion of no confidence against the entire city government. If we look at the number of votes the deputy mayors and the mayor herself (mayor Ljudmila Jantšenko received 93 votes, which is the 16th result in Kohtla-Järve - ed), it is essentially non-existent," Pahka said, adding that he would prefer a larger coalition.

Restart Kohtla-Järve is also not scared to be in opposition. "The opposition would be very strong, because we would have nine seats alongside the Social Democrats," Pahka noted.

The remaining four seats went to entrepreneur Nikolai Ossipenko's electoral alliance Progress and Reform. Both lists received two seats in city council.

While Progress members were hard to catch on Monday, for both parties and ERR alike, Reform Party member and Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor Vitali Borodin was open for conversation. He said he is disappointed in the results for himself and his party, but also Kohtla-Järve's voter turnout of 39 percent - the lowest indicator in Estonia.

"Of course, we planned for more seats than we got, but the bigger surprise for us was how low voter turnout was," Borodin said, adding that the most important factor going forward is how fast the coalition partners can decide who will be the council chairman.

Voter turnout for the 2021 local election last week totaled 54.8 percent as the polls closed on Sunday night, exceeding the result four years ago.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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