The Reform Party's Tallinn city council chambers leader Kristen Michal says that he hopes the Social Democratic Party (SDE) will be as demanding a coalition partner as his party would have been, had it entered into office with Center in the capital. Michal was speaking following news that Center and SDE have entered into coalition talks in Tallinn.
Michal, who was also Reform's mayoral candidate, said: "I hope that SDE is no less demanding than we would have been, and that changes made will be real ones – in cutting bureaucracy, communicating with business-like people, and also by innovating in the urban space, maintaining the active life of families with children and our mothers and fathers."
"The good news is that in Tallinn, following these elections, the situation where one party had sole power is over, and a coalition has been born. A demanding coalition partner means better balance, and several pairs of eyes in places where the light had not shone before," Michal added.
As to the next four years and the success of the Center/SDE coalition – should it become reality – Michal said that: "Time will tell; I am sure that both the citizens of the city and our council will keep an eye on things, and expectations for the next four years are high."
How Center being in office with SDE in Tallinn, while at the national level the party is in coalition with Michal's party, Reform, while SDE are in opposition, Michal said the prognosis for Toompea was: "Hard to assess. So far I had thought the two were separate things, but of course having the same coalition in the capital and the country would have been smoother, both in terms of achieving great things, and perhaps also for the expectations of Tallinners. But will this affect things and how may it do so? It's too early to assess that right now."
Reinsalu: The Center Party can get by with a minority government
Isamaa's mayoral candidate, Urmas Reinsalu, said he is certain SDE will accept Center's offer of going into coalition.
Reinsalu wrote in a social media post that: "The decision of the Center Party to invite SDE into a coalition in Tallinn is less surprising than the speed SDE looked at forming an alternative coalition on Monday. It is logical to assume that these steps had a clear causal link."
He added that it is feasible that real change at the city government can be achieved with SDE in coalition, but added he would still encourage them to put anti-corruption issues on the table.
Reinsalu and Isamaa's Tallinn campaign was highly focused on clearing up corruption; Center has long been a party perceived as being involved in corrupt activities, while it was a scandal surrounding a real estate development in central Tallinn which brought down the party's leader, Jüri Ratas, as prime minister, early on this year.
Reinsalu also said that should the Center/SDE coalition not work out, Center could get by as a minority government in the capital for at least a year, adding this situation would actually be healthy in that the majority opposition could also have its proposals heard more by the city government.
Center proposed talks with SDE Thursday, following last Sunday's local elections result which saw it two seats short of retaining the majority rule it has held in the capital for over a decade. While Center as a result needed one other party to go into coalition with it, the reverse was also the case, given that a grand coalition leaving out Center would likely not have been viable, given it would have meant SDE would have been in office with its polar opposite, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Riigikogu MPs are also permitted to sit on local councils, and around half of them do; in Tallinn, this is particularly convenient since the Riigikogu and the city council chambers are a short walk from each other. Both Kristan Michal and SDE's city council chair Raimond Kaljulaid hold a seat at each legislature.
Center and SDE have not yet struck a deal and reports of the talks only appeared in the media late afternoon Thursday.
Center won 38 mandates at the 79-seat chamber, SDE six, Reform 15 and Isamaa five.
Editor: Andrew Whyte