Kohtla-Järve coalition negotiations fall through

Kohtla-Järve council deputies arriving Thursday for negotiations which have since fallen through.
Kohtla-Järve council deputies arriving Thursday for negotiations which have since fallen through. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Negotiations aimed at forming a new coalition in the eastern Estonian town of Kohtla-Järve have fallen through following a disagreement over the appointment of deputy mayoral candidates.

Three deputies, from the Restart Kohtla-Järve electoral alliance, announced Saturday they would not be continuing negotiations with the Center Party and the Social Democrats, (SDE), citing a divergence of values and views on how the city of around 35,000 people should be run.

A Restart statement issued Saturday said that: "Kohtla-Järve needs real and substantive change to bring high-quality city management and attitudes, which would include forgoing the entrenched custom of the political distribution of city government positions."

"We want to decisively slash through thosee city management style and attitudes which have persisted for almost 25 years in Kohtla-Järve," the statement went on.

While the smallest of the three parties to the abortive talks – Restart held three seats compared with Center and SDE on five each – the political alliance had pushed for its candidate, Virve Linder, to become the city's new mayor.

The three Restart councilors, Mare Roosileht, Viktor Andrejev and Hendrik Agur, are pressing for a rapid improvement to city finances, which they say are in a critical condition, an end to the current power vacuum and a new, strong and forward-looking city government.

Kohtla-Järve has been without a city government for over a fortnight following a large-scale corruptions scandal and criminal investigation involving the bulk of the previous administration, city leaders and council chamber leaders, who left office after a vote of no-confidence.

SDE leader Eduard Odinets, who is also the party's secretary general and a Riigikogu MP, said Restart's actions were both regrettable and incomprehensible, adding that at this point he does not know what will happen next.

Roosileht told regional daily Põhjarannik (link in Estonian) as early as Thursday evening, when coalition talks were underway, that she did not intend to participate, namely due to the nomination of long-time city government officials Kristiine Agu and Olga Golovačjova as deputy mayoral candidates on the part of the Center Party, rather than Virve Linder nominating these candidates.

The next city council session is to be held Monday.

Virve Linder is currently a manager at the Viru Prison.

Eduard Odinets was slated to be new council chair.

The recent corruption scandal mainly centered around the issuing of municipal services contracts in the city and in nearby Jõhvi and allegations that these activities are in effect run by local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko; nine of the 25 city councilors embroiled in the allegations , along with city government officials and other local businesspeople, were effectively charged with being in Ossipenko's pocket.

Ossipenko himself has declared ill-health ahead of any potential court proceedings.

The recently departed coalition and the current council make-up were elected to office in the October 2021 local elections.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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