Most parties place hopes in tried and tested candidates in Tartu

Tartu's Village of Light.
Tartu's Village of Light. Source: Maanus Kullamaa

In the Tartu constituency, most political parties are betting on tried and tested candidates for the upcoming Riigikogu elections. However, for both Eesti 200 and the Social Democrat Party (SDE), newcomers top the party lists in Estonia's second largest city.

Eight seats will be up for grabs in Tartu in the 2023 Riigikogu elections. Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas, the only candidate to have won a personal mandate in the previous elections, will again be running for the Reform Party.

"My goal is for the Reform Party to win the parliamentary elections and for Tartu to have very good representation in the Riigikogu," Klaas told ERR.

"I myself want to thank the people for their support in the past, and also say that I will continue as mayor. I want to help my good colleagues, who have worked really well so far and will certainly continue to do so in the future, to get into the Riigikogu," said Klaas.

Eesti 200 vice-chair Kristina Kallas ran in Tallinn during the 2019 Riigikogu elections. After finishing second in the local elections in Tartu, Kallas is now hoping to gain even more support in her hometown for the 2023 elections.

"Education, research and higher education funding are important for Tartu. Climate and green issues are equally important for the city. In a sense Tartu is still leading the way here and is waiting for the state to catch up," said Kallas.

Irja Lutsar, who recently joined Eesti 200, is first on the party's list in Tartu and Jõgeva County.

With internal tensions simmering among the Tartu chapter of the Social Democrats, journalism researcher Krista Aru is expected to bring new life to the party by topping its list. Aru will leave behind her post as head of the University of Tartu library if she wins a seat in the Riigikogu.

"This squabbling between the Social Democrats, the background of which I don't really know and don't want to know, I'm sorry about. For me, the most important thing is still to support a solidarity-based way of thinking, to talk about Estonian culture and to help people who preserve our culture to do their work in peace," said Aru.

"Having worked for many years in relatively poor(ly funded) cultural institutions, I can see, that one thing, which should be talked about and emphasized more now, is the potential of our culture. This potential that culture has to nurture and support, not to provide people with money, but just a kind word - that is the message I want to speak about," Aru said.

The Center Party, which performed poorly in Tartu during the local elections, is sticking with Jaan Toots to lead its Riigikogu campaign.

"It was agreed a long time ago that I would be the number one and Aadu Black would be the number two," said Toots. "There will be a lot of new people on the list, but at the moment, it's too early to say. It's never easy, it's never been easy for the Center Party in Tartu. Tartu is still the stronghold of the Reform Party," Toots added.

Isamaa's candidate in Tartu is Minister of Education Tõnis Lukas, who also won a district mandate in the previous elections.

"The education system, teachers' salaries and all the things that I deal with every day, these are the issues in Tartu, which people probably know me for. I'm sure that the people of Tartu will support Isamaa and a patriotic stance," said Lukas.

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is hoping to win more than 10,000 votes and two district mandates in Tartu. EKRE's front-runner in Tartu is Jaak Valge.

"This time we still hope to get over 10,000 votes, a quarter or a third more than (we did) last time. And then two district mandates. Tartu is, after all, the historic capital of Estonia. In a way, then, we are restoring historical justice here, or in other words, restoring the popularity of the national conservatives. This is quite a real thing, because our ratings in Tartu have risen rapidly and it is safe to say, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Parempoolsed is yet to announce its candidate for Tartu, while Johanna Maria Tõugu heads the list for the Estonian Greens.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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