Narva council chair defection no threat to Katri Raik's position as mayor

Vladimir Žavoronkov.
Vladimir Žavoronkov.

The resignation from the coalition of council chair in the eastern Estonian city of Narva, and his defection to the opposition, while it will potentially lead to the dissolution of that coalition, does not immediately threaten the position of the town's mayor, Katri Raik, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports, and may even strengthen it in the face of a recent challenge and looming no-confidence vote.

Council chair, ie. speaker of the council legislature, is a significant position in local politics and virtually on a par with the leader of the executive, ie. the mayor.

In Narva's case, Vladimir Žavoronkov remains council chair, while he has left the ruling Narva Tulevik electoral alliance and its coalition, headed by Raik.

Žavoronkov told AK his issues with the coalition related to different opinions on most issues, though his defection appeared to be a strategic move ahead of a new coalition line-up entering office, with Raik at the helm.

He said: "I have to vote as the faction decides or as the coalition decides, at all times, whereas in fact, our opinions are completely different, and in a situation where the faction's chair gets to impose their will, then, for me, it is probably a better option to get out of that faction (by faction, Žavoronkov is referring to Narva Tulevik.-ed)."

Žavoronkov said that the coalition agreement signed between Narva Tulevik and Eesti 200, following the October 2021 local elections, seems to have fallen by the wayside, while an authoritarian management style characterizes the coalition's functioning.

The reverse is also the case, AK reported, and Narva Tulevik has expressed its dissatisfaction over cases where Žavoronkov did not support bills put forward by the coalition.

Most significantly, however, Zhavoronkov's means the coalition is now in a minority, which will spell the need for a new coalition agreement, possibly with the Center Party – traditionally a major forvce in the largely Russian-speaking town

Vadim Orlov, Narva Tulevik chair, told AK (in Russian, whereas Žavoronkov gave his comments in Estonian) that getting Center involved would prove a stabilizing force "so that the constant change of power that has infected Ida-Viru County does not reach Narva."

Katri Raik. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin/ERR

Orlov may have been referring to a long-running, but recently resolved, political deadlock in Kohtla-Järve.

Both Žavoronkov and Orlov meanwhile said that while big changes lie ahead for the council, these do not concern the city's administration, meaning Raik's position is secure, they said.

"I remain convinced that there is no better mayor for our city than Katri Raik, and in that respect, nothing has changed so far as I am concerned," Žavoronkov went on.

Orlov meanwhile said that: "It is very important for us that Katri continue the changes she had begun in Narva, and this is one of our main conditions in negotiations with any potential coalition partner."

The opposition declined to give comment to AK.

The Narva Heaks electoral alliance, currently in opposition in Narva, told ERR that a vote of no-confidence in Raik and her two deputy mayors would be tabled on Thursday.

The electoral alliance's leader, Aleksei Jevgrafov, himself a former Narva mayor, said that "anything is possible" on the matter.

Katri Raik, while she headed up her own electoral list at the 2021 local election, is a Social Democrat (SDE) member. A former interior minister, she has vowed to remain working for Narva, and is not running in next month's Riigikogu elections.

Eesti 200 and its Narva leader Denis Larchenko left the coalition last August, citing differences in leadership culture and values.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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