Gallery: Kohtla-Järve city government coalition deal finally signed

A coalition agreement has been signed in the eastern Estonian town of Kohtla-Järve, to avoid the sitting city government there to have to step down. The agreement still seems somewhat provisional in nature, and ostensibly hinges on the sorting out of city finances.

The city government itself entered office earlier this month; Wednesday's agreement referred to the multi-party coalition as a whole and gives the government a council majority.

Kohtla-Järve had been without an administration since last autumn and, while there were no reports of local citizens somehow being unable to function without a city government in place, the agreement signed at least ends the long stand-off, referred to in the media as a "power vacuum".

The development means that the incumbent mayor, former prison director Virve Linder (Isamaa), remains in office, with the first main task facing her and her government being sorting out the city's budgetary issues.

Eduard Odinets, chair of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) Kohtla-Järve city council group, said that the mayor: "Has to take into account the will of the majority on the council."

SDE is one of the parties in the new coalition.

"She will likely have to read our agreements very carefully to see how he can start fulfilling them, with us. At present, we want to work with the city government, and our first and most important goal right now is to pass the city budget, as this has not yet been done," Odinets went on.

Center is also in the coalition; the party's Kohtla-Järve chair, Sergei Lopin, said much the same thing: "At the moment, we are looking at how we are doing with the budget, then we will start to see how our cooperation with this city government is progressing," adding that if cooperation is not fruitful, a no-confidence motion against the city government may follow.

The two chairs also stated that the coalition agreement is not a "classic" one in that it does not outline the division of work responsibilities in city management, though it does have an action plan for the next three years, they said.

The Linder-led coalition includes SDE and Center, along with some unaligned deputies; between them the city government has a majority of 14 on the 25-seat council.

Last October, a widespread corruption scandal engulfing the bulk of the city government members, the council chair, and other officials, led to its resignation. Most of the issues related to the granting of municipal service contracts and alleged favoritism in this towards local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko.

Delays in getting a new coalition in place had also occurred due to disagreements over the appointment of deputy mayors.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

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