Former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar passes away

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Edgar Savisaar.
Edgar Savisaar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The first prime minister of re-independent Estonia, founder of the Center Party and long-time Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar passed away on Thursday at the age of 72.

Edgar Savisaar (May 31, 1950 – December 29, 2022) was an Estonian politician, one of the founding members of the Popular Front of Estonia (Rahvarinne) and the Center Party, chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR from 1990 to 1991, the first prime minister of the Republic of Estonia from 1991 to 1992, and former chairman of the Center Party.

He was a member of five parliaments between 1992 and 2007. From 1992 to 1995, he was the deputy chairman of the Riigikogu. He also served as minister of interior (1995) and economic affairs and communications (2005 to 2007).

From 2001 to 2004 and from 2007 to 2017, the Center Party politician served as mayor of Tallinn. He also held the position of chairman of Tallinn City Council between 1996 to 1999 and in 2005.

Savisaar was a founder of the Center Party, which formed out of the Popular Front in 1991.

Before entering politics, he worked as a teacher, lecturer, and academic and was head of the State Planning Committee of the Estonian SSR.

Savisaar was awarded several state honors from Estonia and Latvia.

He was married three times and has four children.

Controversies and scandals

While Savisaar paid a key role during the restoration of Estonia's independence, he was also at the center of several scandals over the last three decades.

In the autumn of 1995, the politician was accused of secretly recording conversations held with Prime Minister Tiit Vähi and Reform Party chairman Siim Kallas after the 1995 parliamentary elections. This led to the collapse of the ruling coalition. Savisaar denied the accusations and responsibility was taken by his assistant Vilja Laanaru. The pair later married.

In 2010, at a forum in Estonia, Savisaar asked Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, for financial assistance to build an Orthodox church in Tallinn's Lasnamäe region. Savisaar was called in for discussions by the Internal Security Service (KAPO), which denied leaking the story.

In 2015, the politician was investigated in relation to bribery allegations. According to the charges, in 2014 and 2015, Savisaar took bribes totaling several hundred thousand euros in the form of assets and favors for himself and the Center Party. On September 30, 2015, the court decided to remove Savisaar from his position as mayor of Tallinn. A long-running court case about the charges ended in 2020.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa, Helen Wright

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