Veteran politician Marju Lauristin has announced that she has stepped down from the board of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE), which she co-founded, citing health issues. Lauristin is a former MP, a former government minister, and, most recently, a former MEP, while her political career stretches back more than 40 years.
Addressing the SDE board meeting Saturday via remote link-up, Lauristin, 81, said: "I am taking the opportunity to tell you a few words about my departure. This is the last board meeting I will be taking part in as a member of the board," adding that: "I can safely say that Lauristin is now a former politician."
Lauristin said she intends to remain on as an advisor to the party.
"I very much hope that I will be able to be with you and have a say in the future, but when it is necessary for you, and necessary and interesting for me," Lauristin, who stepped down from Tartu city council and announced she would not seek reelection in 2019, added.
SDE, which picked its new leader in Lauri Läänemets on Saturday, promptly elected Lauristin honorary chair of the party, a position often granted to veteran or former politicians.
As such, Lauristin will be joining former president Arnold Rüütel (EKRE), former prime minister Siim Kallas (Reform) and former prime minister Mart Laar (Isamaa) as respective honorary chairs of their own parties (Edgar Savisaar declined an offer to be Center's honorary chair).
Lauristin's appointment was proposed by SDE board chair and former Riigikogu speaker Eiki Nestor, and was met with a standing ovation, ERR reports, implying her election was unanimous.
Lauristin also congratulated Läänemets on his election and expressed her satisfaction that the leadership run-off between him and former health minister Riina Sikkut, to replace Indrek Saar, who stepped down after last October's local elections, had not split the party.
SDE have been in opposition since April 2019 at the national level, and currently have 10 MPs. The party actually polled higher than any other on the island of Hiiumaa, at the October local elections.
An academic and professor at the University of Tartu, Marju Lauristin's parents were leading members of the Estonian Communist Party. Lauristin herself was a leading figure in the drive for Estonian independence and was one of the signatories of an open letter published in October 1980 which protested the oppression of the Estonian culture and nation.
During the Singing Revolution of the late 1980s, she co-founded the first major independence movement, Rahvarinne, and later became social affairs minister in the early 1990s. She was Riigikogu MP until 2014 and an MEP 2014-2017, before ending up as a Tartu city councilor until 2019.
Editor: Andrew Whyte