Center MP: War insignia have no place in Victory Day gatherings

Center Party Secretary General Andre Hanimägi
Center Party Secretary General Andre Hanimägi Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Society needs to see that solutions to problems are not always black-and-white choices, Center Party Secretary General Andre Hanimägi says, speaking in the context of the upcoming 'Victory Day' on May 9 and its relation to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to ERR webcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, Hanimägi said that the Center Party, whose traditional bedrock support had derived from Estonia's Russian-speaking populace, had not ruled on whether party members may commemorate May 9 at the "Bronze Soldier" monument, but should follow their own consciences.

At the same time, he said: "People can remember, but must do so with dignity".

Hanimägi said his own personal opinion of the event, which in the Russian Federation marks the end of World War Two, was that counter-protestors should also refrain from going to the site of the "Bronze Soldier", in a central Tallinn cemetery.

He said: "If we go in very hard in order to demand our rights, at the cemetery, then my fear is that society loses out."

Center MPs are also voting in favor of statements condemning the Ukraine conflict, he went on.

"This isn't a matter of choice. A war is going on, and people are dying. There is no room for political pragmatism here."

At the same time, commemorating the fallen with a wreath should not be barred, though any attendees on May 9 should look carefully to see if they are publicly displaying a Ribbon of St. George, a Hammer and Sickle or the letter "Z" - also pictorial representations of the wearer's support for the present-day Russian Federation and therefore of atrocities being committed in Ukraine.

"These should be left behind," he said.

The current security situation has played into the hands of Center's coalition partner, Reform, Hanimägi added, noting that public support for the former has fallen while for the latter it has been rising.

This did not mean that Center was done for, however, he added.

He said: "I believe and I sincerely hope that this war will come to an end and that the suffering will end.

"Then, at some point, the public will [still] have their livelihoods and all the issues that had plagued them before the conflict - what their pension will be, child benefits, and Ukrainian war refugees."

"I believe that The Center Party has a lot more opportunity to have a say in these discussions and to show that we have much-needed ideas," he continued.

A Center Party board meeting Tuesday discussed the issue of Estonia's Russian-speaking minority and the issue of May 9, Hanimägi said.

Center's MEP, Yana Toom, chaired the meeting, he added.

A law currently being processed at the Riigikogu would bar the public display of such symbols in any case.

Hanimägi: All bar 10 percent of €850,000 Center Party fine has been amassed

Hanimägi also said that a recent €850,000 fine the party was hit with following a Supreme Court judgment means that campaigning ahead of the March 5 2023 general election will be a more modest affair than in previous years, adding Center would not be able to compete with other parties to the degree that it would like.

Without naming a figure, Hanimägi said that the campaign would be smaller than that ahead of last October's local election, with candidates themselves expected to chip in.

The watchdog body tasked with monitoring party finances, the Political Parties Financing Monitoring Committee (ERJK), issued the fine in respect of an illicit donation the party had received, in the form of largely un-invoiced work done for the party by a consulting firm over the period 2009-2015.

Ninety-percent of fine has been put together, Hanimägi added. The fine is due on May 13.

The fine had also come as a big surprise for the party, he added, but donations, boosted membership fees, cost-cutting, including that involving staff had all contributed to the sum being reached.

Center may also take out a loan, he added, though nothing has been agreed yet.

The party ought to have been given a longer time to pay off the fine, Hanimägi went on.

Of other recent events which have not gone the party's way, including the real estate scandal which caused the downfall of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition in January 2021, Hanimägi said: "We haven't gotten any wiser since the initial suspicion. We ourselves are rather positive, however, that the litigation in this case will be rather well thought out and positive for us."

The Reform Party's submission of proposals for benefits in negotiations on a supplementary budget being issued in response to the security crisis are there as a compromise with Center, Hanimägi added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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