Process to find new Kohtla-Järve coalition mired in stalemate

Kohtla-Järve council sitting on Monday, November 14, 2022.
Kohtla-Järve council sitting on Monday, November 14, 2022. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Efforts to agree on a new coalition in the eastern Estonian city of Kohtla-Järve have met a deadlock after negotiations ground to a halt over the weekend, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

The city's 25-person council has until December 27 to elect a new mayor and council chair, or face dissolution, with substitute members from electoral lists from last October's municipal elections replacing them.

Part of the current difficulty relates to the fact that nine councilors from several parties are tainted with a corruption scandal which broke in October this year, centering on local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko.

Social Democratic Party (SDE) deputy Eduard Odinets said: "Our party, who initiated the council chair election, does not not see any candidate in the current composition of the council who would have received 13 votes (ie. the amount needed to get a majority), and there was no point in organizing a 'circus'."

An attempt to form a tripartite coalition foundered late last week after three of the corruption-free candidates, from the Restart Kohtla-Järve electoral alliance, left the negotiations on the issue of appointments to key roles, leaving SDE and Center to have to shop around for partners, potentially from among those who were, after all, linked to the corruption saga, AK reported.

One councilor, Viktor Andrejev (Restart) even said as much to the council, which Center councilor Sergei Lopin concede was likely to be the case.

Lopin said: "Just as Mr. Andrejev said today, since deputies have been given a mandate by the people and have the right to vote, we will undertake such a strategy and start talking to everyone."

Odinets meanwhile called the situation "confusing".

"It is difficult to comprehend from this who will go with whom and who will support whom; it is all such a hot mess, it really is tough to figure out," he said.

Hendrik Agur, one of the three Restart candidates who quit the talks, agreed, though said he hoped people would get so sick of the status quo and make the best choices.

On October 27, Tiit Lillemets, one of the individuals allegedly involved in the corrupt activities – which mostly comprise the unfair doling out of municipal contracts in Kohtla-Järve and also nearby Jõhvi – was voted out of office, followed by the city government itself, though the latter is provisionally continuing to function until a new mayor is elected.

A new council chair was due to be elected Monday but the collapse of the coalition talks has led to the postponement of this process.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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