Viljandi coalition materializing, Jaak Joala statue likely to be removed

Jaak Joala monument in Viljandi.
Jaak Joala monument in Viljandi. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

The new city government of the South Estonian town of Viljandi is taking shape and is set to be made up of a local electoral alliance, plus the Reform and Center parties. The three parties have yet to sign a deal, but say they agree on all key issues, including the future of a controversial monument located in the town center.

Juhan-Mart Salumäe, from the electoral alliance Südamega Viljandis, told AK that: "We have agreed on the reduction of kindergarten fees. In the same way, we have talked at length about the inclusion platform – meaning we are in the process of creating strong guidelines for city leaders."

"We are similarly also discussing that those city government members who, in addition mayors or deputy mayors of the city, are in city government, would get greater responsibilities for the development of the town," he went on.

Madis Timpson (Reform) told AK that: "While I have no experience of cooperating with the electoral alliance, on a personal level we have known each other for a long time and I do not see any insurmountable problems arising."

Südamega Viljandis has eight seats, and will be joined by Reform (seven seats) and the Center Party (two seats) in the coalition agreement due to be signed later this week, AK reported, giving a majority of 17 seats on the 27-member chamber.

Social Democratic Party MP Helmen Kütt topped Südamega Viljandis' electoral list – meaning she was the alliance's first candidate under Estonia's d'hondt system of proportional representation – and is mayoral candidate, while, AK reported, most topics of discussion between the three parties have been covered.

Isamaa was pointedly left out of talks despite receiving 50 percent more votes than Center, AK said.

One explanation is the issue of a controversial statue to the late Jaak Joala (1950-2014), an Estonian singer, which the provisional coalition is committed to removing.

The controversy surrounded subjective appraisal of the aesthetics of the monument's design (see photo), along with the trademarking of the late singer's name, rather than the idea of having a monument to him per se.

The monument has in fact been enclosed inside a wooden box for much of its life-span, perhaps lest its presence offend the eyes of townspeople or anyone else, but in reality relating to Joala's widow withdrawing permission to use his likeness.

Helmen Kütt is not confirmed mayor – which would require her to leave the Riigikogu – though prior to the election she had pledged to do just that.

Riigikogu MPs may also hold local council seats, and about half of them do. However, taking up a government post on a municipality would require relinquishing the seat, just as it does when being appointed to national government.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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