Center Party expels Marek Kullamägi
The Center Party has expelled Marek Kullamägi, who had headed up the party's Ida-Viru County branch but who had expressed an intention to run for Eesti 200 at the March Riiigkogu election.
The expulsion, which happened on Tuesday, has clarified that candidates may not run for a party while still being member of another party.
Kullamägi had not been selected to run by Center itself, but said he wanted to remain a party member while running for Eesti 200 instead.
Center's Secretary General, Andre Hanimägi, said that: "Unfortunately, the party had to find out about this from the [electoral] flyer, not from the individual themselves."
"Naturally everyone has the right to work with a team that suits them, but since Marek Kullamägi himself did not want to make the decision, while what was happening was misleading for the voters, the party board itself took the next logical step itself," Hanimägi went on.
Eevi Paasmäe will now head up Center's Ida-Viru County regional branch, Hanimägi added.
Ida-Viru County is a key region for the party, which traditionally has drawn a significant amount of its support from there.
As reported by ERR News, Kullamägi announced on Monday that while he did not intend to leave Center, he would be running for Eesti 200 at the March Riigikogu election.
State Electoral Office (RVT) chief Arne Koitmäe said that running for one political party while remaining a member of another was not permissible under Estonian electoral law, adding that Kullamägi would have to permanently resign from Center, and not just suspend his membership during the elections, in order to run for Eesti 200.
Party membership is listed via the commercial register, and leaving a party must be conducted via this channel as well.
The deadline for registering candidates is January 19, ahead of election day, March 5. Candidate checks will be conducted by the RVT from that time, with a view to being registered to run by or on January 24.
Candidates have a three-day period, following that date, in which they can opt out of running, after which their candidacy is set in stone.
There is no bar on candidates who belong to no political party from running on a party's list, nor are candidates who win a seat required to take it up – in fact, parties generally run high-profile "vote magnet" candidates high up on their lists, fully in the knowledge that these candidates are not likely to take up a seat – for instance if they get made a government minister.
Furthermore, MEPs and local government officials in any case cannot under the rules take up a Riigikogu seat.
Local councilors, on the other hand, can run for the Riigikogu and sit as MPs, and indeed around half of the 101 Riigikogu MPs do sit as councilors also.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja