SDE Tallinn leader: Coalition with Center not clinging to power at any cost

Tallinn city hall.
Tallinn city hall. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Raimond Kaljulaid, SDE's leader at Tallinn city council chambers, denied that the party, whose support was halved at the recent local elections in comparison with those in 2017, was clinging to Center for survival at any cost. The two parties start their Tallinn coalition negotiations Monday, having agreed to talk last Friday.

"We are in no way in a worse position than anyone else in the council opposition," Kaljulaid told ETV breakfast show "Terevisioon" Monday morning. 

"The Center Party has 38 seats, two fewer seats than a majority, so they can't continue alone. That's the reality," he went on.

Similarly, the involvement of a smaller coalition partner does not mean that Center can de facto continue its pre-election absolute majority, he said

"At the end of the day, this is the will of the people, the people have initiated such a city council. It is now up to the politicians to do their job," he went on.

As to concrete negotiation topics, Kaljulaid said that: "We will discuss all important areas in the capital, starting with transport and urban space, which is an important keyword for us, but also going into social services, health care and everything that Tallinn does. In any case, this must be viewed holistically."

Coalition negotiations at the municipal level are much more specific than at national level, he added, stating that SDE would not be compromising on its pre-election manifesto.

"Political parties make promises to people in the election campaign and, of course, we want to keep and fulfill those promises," he said.

One of these would be to depoliticize city-wide public and private companies and foundations, and their boards, Kaljulaid said.

At the time of writing, 59 of the 81 key positions are taken by Center Party members, ERR reports.

Sitting mayor Mihhail Kõlvart denied the existence of a Center-supplied "food chain".

He said: "This is certainly not the most important question we are going to talk about, though all questions are on the table."

The urban space in the capital and looking to Nordic cities as a model were among the other main considerations, Kaljulaid went on.

At the October 17 local elections, Center ended up two seats short of retaining the absolute majority it had enjoyed in Tallinn for well over a decade, meaning it had to find a coalition partner.

While most of the parties in their public statements suddenly dropped their pre-election hostility to Center when city government seats appeared to be up for grabs, Center made its first offer to SDE, which the latter accepted.

Center leader Jüri Ratas said that there had not been many other options in any case.

SDE initially said it was in no hurry to respond to Center's offer, only to do just that 24 hours later, though party leader Indrek Saar said the impending coalition negotiations would be tough.

Raimond Kaljulaid, elder of the North Tallinn district, is a former Center MP, but quit the party over the issue of its entering a national government coalition with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in spring 2019.

SDE has six city council seats at the 79-seat chamber. Three parties, Reform (15), Eesti 200 (eight) and EKRE (seven) have more seats than SDE, but remain in opposition, while Isamaa has five seats.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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