Former health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) has been appointed Deputy Mayor of Tallinn, replacing Andrei Novikov (Center), who is now on the board of the capital's transport authority, Tallinna Linnatransport (TLT).
Kiik told ERR that: "I asked the mayor [Mihhail Kõlvart] if he was planning to carry out any restructuring in the distribution of duties of the deputy mayors. While the mayor stated that he did not have such thoughts at present, he proposed that I took over the same areas of responsibility that were previously managed by Andrei Novikov," adding that after discussing the matter further, Kiik agreed to the post.
Kiik, who was health minister through much of the coronavirus pandemic, said he will start work in his new role at the end of August/start of September, depending on the mayor's and the city government and legislature's timetables.
Novikov was one of seven deputy mayors, and his responsibility was the field of city property management and the management of transport in the capital, i.e. the tasks Kiik will be taking on.
Kiik also said he would likely run in the Riigikogu elections in March; whether he continued as deputy mayor or not would depend on the election outcome – adding that he would put city over state if Center were not to end up in office at the national level following the election.
"If the Center Party should form the next coalition or be one of the parties in that coalition, then it will be a new situation and we will have to review the various political positions in the country and the capital as a whole," he added.
Center is currently in opposition at the Rigiikgu, but in office, with the Social Democrats, in Tallinn.
Under Estonia's electoral regulations, candidates running in general elections are not obliged to take up a seat, for instance if they are appointed government minister or, as in Kiik's case, to local government (in fact it is a straight choice between the two).
This has the effect of many high-profile candidates from all parties running in an election as a "vote catcher", with the aim of distributing excess votes obtained beyond the threshold number required to win a seat, to candidates lower down the party's electoral list, in that constituency, and with the hope of gaining extra seats for those candidates who may not have won a seat in their own right.
If a candidate declines to take up a Riigikogu seat, it goes to the next candidate on the ordered list which that party put up in that constituency (this latter candidate must vacate the seat should the original holder then return to parliament, for whatever reason).
Kiik, a former adviser to party leader Jüri Ratas, has not sat in the Riigikogu up until now. He was frequently in the spotlight following the arrival of the pandemic in spring 2020, and held the post as minister for Health and Labor, or its equivalent, in the Center/EKRE/Isamaa administration and the Reform/Center administration, until the Center Party component of the latter left office, in June.
Andrei Novikov stepped down as deputy mayor, a position he had held since 2017, and also quit the Center Party in order to take up his board seat with TLT.
Novikov had signed contracts with two former TLT members, Deniss Boroditš and Otto Popel, who had to step down in May over corruption allegations relating to attendance on training courses which were funded by Tallinn taxpayers.
Editor: Andrew Whyte