Aleksei Jevgrafov, former mayor of Narva and member of Reform during the early 2000s, is in talks about standing as a candidate for the Center Party in the upcoming Riigikogu elections.
"Yes, a proposal has been made, and we are currently discussing some nuances, (to decide) if we can even go ahead together," Jevgrafov told ERR. "It could happen, but, as of today, there is no firm agreement," he said.
According to Jevgrafov, "the usual things" need to be resolved before a final decision can be made, adding that an agreement regarding his candidacy could be reached within a couple of weeks.
Asked whether he could head Center's list in Ida-Viru County, given that Yana Toom, who has done so in recent elections, will not be running there on this occasion, and Mihhail Stalnuhhin was recently expelled from the party, Jevgrafov replied, that he had not been offered the position.
"Certainly, no one has offered me that role. We didn't talk about it at all. I think that these very issues will be on the agenda in the coming weeks," he said.
Jevgrafov also admitted that he had been contacted by the Center Party before the infamous video, which led to Stalnuhhin being expelled, had appeared. However, the possibility of Jevgrafov being placed ahead of him on the list of candidates, was not likely to have been the reason Stalnuhhin made such provocative remarks, he said.
"I don't know, I don't think so. My relationship with Mihhail is quite normal. I know that he wanted to run for the Riigikogu, but just the fact that I (might be) in front of him - well, I don't think so. He's such an experienced politician, such small [things] don't really bother him," Jevgrafov said.
Jevgrafov was a member of the Reform Party from December 4, 2001 until January 1, 2006. From 2017 to 2019, he was deputy mayor of Narva, and became acting mayor of the city on March 15, 2019. Jevgrafov was mayor of Narva from April 8, 2019 to November 11, 2020 and is currently chair of the opposition faction of the Narva City Council.
Toom: I hope he will join us.
MEP Yana Toom, who stood as the party's front-runner in Ida-Viru County during the last two Riigikogu elections, said she would not be standing there this time around. Toom said, that she hoped Jevgrafov would be added to the Center Party list, but did not think he would be the chair.
"His name has indeed been floated - I don't know if it's as a front-runner, I doubt that very much. But, basically, the hope is that he will join us," Toom said.
"I'm not running in Ida-Viru County for sure, at least, for the moment, I don't think so. It's logistically very difficult because, after the pandemic we have had almost no direct flights (from Brussels to Tallinn - ed.). And that means that the journey from Brussels to Ida-Viru County takes basically a whole day. It's not as easy as it was during the previous elections, when there was a direct flight," Toom explained.
Toom led Center's Narva region, a position currently occupied by Tetjana Stolfat, during the second half of the last decade.
Center Party remains weaker in Ida-Viru County
While in the 2011 and 2015 Riigikogu elections, Center won well over half of the votes in Ida-Viru County, in 2019, the party's share fell to just over was just over 50 percent.
As things stand, the party's expected list of candidates also appears to be weaker than in previous campaigns.
The Center Party received 18,803 votes in Ida-Viru County during the 2011 Riigikogu elections, a share of 57.9 percent in the region. Center's biggest vote winner was Mihhail Stalnuhhin, with 8,584 votes, followed by Valeri Korb (3,596 votes) and Lembit Kaljuvee (2,440).
In 2015, the Center Party won 20,328 votes in Ida-Viru County, or 59 percent. More than half of these, or 11,574 votes, went to Yana Toom, who topped the list. Mihhail Stalnuhhin came second with 3,648 votes and Martin Repinski third with 1,556.
In 2019, Center's vote share in Ida-Viru County was lower, with a total of 13,700 votes, or 50.7 percent. Toom was the party's strongest candidate with 6,195 votes, ahead of Stalnuhhin on 2,653 and Repinski with 976.
With the absence of Toom, Stalnuhhin and Martin Repinski, who left the party in August having previously been elected to the Riigikogu on two occasions, the Center Party's representation in Ida-Viru County appears to be significantly weaker for next year's elections, which are scheduled for March 5.
Editor: Michael Cole