Marek Kullamägi, regional chairman of the Center Party in Ida-Viru County, is critical of party leader Jüri Ratas' decision to have MEP Yana Toom run in the Ida-Viru electoral district in the 2023 Riigikogu elections.
"We are clearly not thrilled," Kullamägi said in an interview to ERR's Russian portal rus.err.ee when asked about Toom running in Ida-Viru County. "They are moving two Varangians (also referring to Lääne-Viru County politician Kaido Höövelson – rus.err.ee) into our region. This begs the question why have Center Party members in Ida-Viru County at all if we can just bring the candidates over from Tallinn," he added.
Asked why he is opposed to Toom running in Ida-Viru County where she is bound to strengthen the list of candidates, Kullamägi said: "I understand that results matter. But I believe that MPs should represent voters, their region. Yana Toom has been elected to the Riigikogu from our district twice, while she then left for Europe (upon being elected to the European Parliament – ed.). She has never represented Ida-Viru County, even though she has represented the party."
Kullamägi was also critical of Toom's performance in the European Parliament. "Toom has exclusively been addressing the issues of Russian citizens in the European Parliament lately – their pensions, visa troubles etc. Things that should be the concern of the Russian embassy."
The district chairman had things to say about others on the party's Ida-Viru candidates list, including former Narva mayor and former Reform Party member Aleksei Jevgrafov. "He is on the list. It is another thing we've seen before. Yana Toom landed Martin Repinski on our list in the past, and now it's Jevgrafov. History repeating itself," Kullamägi remarked.
Asked why he believes Jevgrafov makes a poor candidate, the local centrist replied that the former is not even a member of the Center Party. "He has done nothing for the party in the years since the last elections. He is an independent who made the list because he is someone's friend or acquaintance. They organized a job for him (Jevgrafov works at Yana Toom's office – rus.err.ee).
Kullamägi admitted that Jevgrafov sought to join Center in the past but was not accepted.
Asked how he believes Center could fare at March 5 elections, the Ida-Viru chairman said the party will likely not match its previous results. The Center Party took 3.5 quotas worth of votes in Ida-Viru County at the previous elections in 2019.
"It will be a serious struggle. Center will not get many mandates, that much is clear. The most we can hope for are two mandates from the district. And they will likely go to people not from Ida-Viru County. It may happen that not a single candidate with ties to Ida-Viru County makes the parliament. It would be the first time."
Center's Ida-Viru branch is set to meet to discuss the elections list on November 15.
The Center Party announced on Friday that its deputy chairman, MEP Yana Toom will run in Ida-Viru County in the 2023 Riigikogu elections, even though Toom had previously suggested her sights were on Tallinn. The party's Ida-Viru County candidates list will be topped by former sumo wrestler Kaido Höövelson, followed by Yana Toom.
Editor: Marcus Turovski