Entrepreneur Jaan Toots, who wants to become the Center Party's next leader, says that the party's goals must be made very clear. Olev Raju, a senior Center member, said that he supports Toots' candidacy in light of numerous instances of slipshod management within the party.
Toots was nominated for the Center Party council leader by the Valga branch about a month and a half ago. Toots lost in the final poll by a single vote, to former minister of environment Tõnis Mölder.
"After that, I started receiving a lot of calls from regional offices asking if I wanted to run for party chair," said Toots, who has spent the past two weeks traveling across Estonia.
Initially he saw himself as a member of the board. On Friday evening Toots estimated that at least 19 regions had offered him the position.
However, Toots has also been nominated for the chairmanship by the districts of Mustamäe, Saaremaa, and Tartu. Jüri Ratas was nominated by Mustamäe and Saaremaa at the same time.
Toots reiterated that he is not running against anyone. Nevertheless, he said he has several important messages. "Concerning Center, we must be crystal clear on what we are fighting for. It has become somewhat hazy," said Toots.
Tartu board member: things have been slipshod
The chairman candidate has promised to give more details on his vision of the party's path at the Center Party congress on August 13 in his hometown of Tartu.
Mihkel Undrest, the head of the Saaremaa regional office, is also looking forward to Toots' speech. Undrest said that it is always preferable in a democratic society to have several candidates.
Lauri Laats, the leader of the Mustamäe district, provided the same rationale for simultaneously nominating Toots and Ratas.
Olev Raju, a Tartu district board member, agrees with Toots that the Center Party should get more precise is formulating its goals.
Raju, an economist, said: "More than half of the party's members are elderly. However, the fundamental senior issues such as nursing homes for the elderly and so on, are not properly resolved."
The Tartu region nominated Jaan Toots only for the position of chairman, said Raju. "The Tartu region is unhappy with the current direction of the party."
"Many things are managed in a slipshod manner," Raju added.
The fact that Jüri Ratas has not been visiting regional offices for a long time is detrimental to the Tartu community. "Somehow, it has become a government-Toompea-Tallinn matter," Raju added. Jaan Toots, on the other hand, has attended the most important party events and conferences in Põlva, Võru, Valga and Tartumaa. Estonia's southern and southeastern regions are of special interest to him.
Toots has plans to the Center radio station
"Already two years ago, I hoped that we could establish an online Tartu TV that would transmit at least one hour every week," said Toots, adding that he would not abandon his dream of establishing a city hall in Tartu either.
Toots said that the Tartu TV discussion was not merely a pre-election talk, that the party needs an outlet: "We do not have a newspaper or radio, so our supporters only learn about us from the general press."
Due to financial constraints, the iconic party weekly Kesknädal (Estonian for "Midweek") is published only online. The paper's return should not be postponed indefinitely. Also, while setting up a TV is costly, running a radio station is relatively inexpensive.
"I frequently give the example of EKRE's radio station; it is on the air every Sunday and then the news are discussing and commenting on it for the weekdays thereafter. I think that the Center Party could benefit from a similar solution," said Toots.
Coalition breakdowns bring much confusion
Both Raju and Toots said that some party members want better communication.
Not only on the radio or in the newspaper, but also in person, to address issues directly. Many people are perplexed by recent national decisions, for example.
"Was it the right decision to leave EKRE government at that time?" asked Raju. "It has been made abundantly clear to me 25 years ago that it is impossible to govern together with the Reform Party."
Also, the breakup of the power coalition with the EKRE and Isamaa, said Toots, worried many Center Party members.
"If the government was planning to resign, it should have been discussed with the executive board and a collegial decision should have been made," said Toots, adding that the executive board members were also concerned about how the decision was made.
Toots praised Jüri Ratas' ability to form effective coalitions, saying: "Jüri Ratas possesses a highly important trait: he is adept at coalitions building." It is another challenge how to step out of them, added Toots.
Editor: Kristina Kersa