Narva mayor on Ida-Viru County election results: Strong signal from voters
The strong results of independent candidate Mihhail Stalnuhhin and United Left Party (EÜVP) candidate Aivo Peterson in Ida-Viru County are a clear sign that people are dissatisfied with the politics of the Estonian government, Narva Mayor Katri Raik (SDE) said. Ida-Viru County requires both increased attention from diverse political parties and increased investment.
"That was a shock and a cause for worry for everyone familiar with the region. No one expected high results for them," Raik said on the "Vikerhommik" radio show on Tuesday morning, reflecting on the impressive number of votes cast for Stalnuhhin and Peterson, the latter of whom campaigned in occupied eastern Ukraine.
Raik, who herself did not stand in this year's elections, said that the significant number of votes cast for independent candidate Stalnuhhin and the United Left Party (EÜVP) is a very clear warning sign and that the alarm bell should be ringing.
"If municipal elections had been held the day before yesterday, it seems likely that Aivo Peterson could have been elected mayor of Narva and Mihhail Stalnuhhin could have been elected council chairman. I do not think that would actually happen, but this shows the real possibility. We certainly should not belittle the matter," the mayor of Narva said.
Raik said that it is unlikely that a Russian party will develop in Estonia in the 2020s, but other political parties must nevertheless start considering Ida-Viru County more seriously.
"Yes, it is tiresome to do these things in Russian and bilingually, it is tiresome when people keep asking questions, but you cannot just hang election posters up for four weeks before the election and that's all. I find it worrisome when political parties consider the fact that they won't receive any votes here anyway and so they do not bother to deal with the region. That's not how it works. Diverse political parties must establish themselves in Narva and Ida-Viru County so that active locals could be involved in politics. Then life will go on."
Raik herself intends to fight to prevent Aivo Peterson's ideas from spreading.
Ida-Viru County cities have to be tuned up
When asked what has gone wrong in Narva and Ida-Viru County, Raik reiterated that, unfortunately, "Narva and Ida-Viru County come to mind in times of crisis only or when something is not right."
In times of peace, the road from Tallinn to Narva always appears longer than the road from Narva to Tallinn, she said.
"The problems that must be solved here are complicated and must be addressed in two languages; the people you must interact with are also diverse, and they often pose sharp questions. This sharpness is now in plain view, and the voter is always correct. The Estonian electorate has indicated dissatisfaction with the state's politics."
Raik said that more European countries are home to minorities of speakers of other languages, which formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, and that the issues surrounding these minorities are quite complex and problematic in all of these countries. A lot of taxpayers' money usually goes into making sure that these areas do well economically and that people feel comfortable in their living environment.
"If you visit Narva now, I am sure you will be disappointed to see that it resembles eastern Ukraine before the war. We have to revitalize the Russian-speaking towns of Ida-Viru County, improve the living environment, of course, involve people, apartment associations, contribute financially," Raik said, emphasizing that only €20 million of the €500 million in just transition money has been distributed so far.
Raik said that one of the biggest challenges facing Estonia is the shift to Estonian-language education in kindergartens and elementary schools, which mostly affects Ida-Viru County, Maardu and Tallinn.
"We in Narva are willing to walk in sync with Estonia and are not requesting an exemption at this time. Politicians need to stop saying that because Narva is failing, nothing can change here. We are ready to come along, but now we need to be taken seriously and supported," Raik said, adding that once the state has made a decision, state officials and legislators should come to Narva to talk about these decisions.
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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Kristina Kersa