Tartu SDE leavers point to shortcomings in management culture

Tartu Town Hall Square.
Tartu Town Hall Square. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Several members have left the Tartu chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) giving unfriendly management culture and favoritism as the reason. Head of SDE in Tartu Kadri Leetmaa brushes off criticism and suggests leavers have conducted themselves unethically.

Several prominent members of the Tartu area of SDE have left in under a week. City council member Karl Aaron Adson, member of the Tartu board of the Social Democrats Jens Jaanimägi and regional deputy chairman Asko Tamm have all quit the party. They have given the party's general shift in direction and infighting standing in the way of fulfilling promises to voters as the reasons.

"People are tormented by their personal failures. The impression one gets here is that anyone who poses even the slightest competition needs to be removed – by resorting to brute force in order to protect one's position. It is obvious that people who have put in less than stellar results at elections have been promoted from one year to the next," Jaanimägi said.

He gave an example from 2021 local elections when an incumbent deputy mayor did not even make the top ten on the candidate list.

Kadri Leetmaa, head of SDE in Tartu, disagrees. She said that the Social Democrats have not changed direction nor does the party have such plans. There is also no preferential treatment.

"As regional manager, I do not play favorites. We have two MPs in Tartu, two city government members, perhaps a few well-known newcomers for no shortage of people who could top the candidate list. However, cooperation is still paramount, in terms of what to do at elections and the principles we represent," Leetmaa said.

Councilman Adson left after recording a board meeting in secret. Adson maintains that the act was the consequence of his exit rather than its cause.

He said that he recorded the meeting to prove there is verbal abuse, ridicule, slander and shouting at management board meetings, while none of it makes it to the minutes. "What I see is Leetmaa willing to stay in the coalition at all costs, even if it means dropping some of our election promises. I believe that Leetmaa has not learned from the mistakes of [Tartu head of the Center Party] Jaan Toots and is about to make the same mistake. I once asked Kadri whether she is prepared to see the region blow up as a result of such conduct. She told me she already has a job."

Leetmaa refutes Adson's claims of out-of-control board meetings and describes recording meetings in secret as a very serious infraction. "No one is judging the person. Everyone realizes that a young person got carried away, but people are members because of their values, and we cannot look them in the eye if we do not solve this thing based on those values. Others will be disappointed if recording of meetings in secret is just shrugged off."

Leetmaa said that the atmosphere is constructive and SDE will meet elections as a united team. Both Jaanimäe and Adson said they do not plan to join any other party or participate in the 2023 elections.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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