Infighting at Eesti 200: Founding member accuses heads of dictatorship

Eesti 200 politicians Marek Reinaas, Margus Tsahkna, Lauri Hussar and Kristina Kallas.
Eesti 200 politicians Marek Reinaas, Margus Tsahkna, Lauri Hussar and Kristina Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The coalition Eesti 200 party has threatened to evict founding members Liina Normet and Karin Kaup-Lapõnin based on accusations of misuse of personal data. Normet described the grounds as far-fetched and said that Margus Tsahkna, Marek Reinaas and Kadri Napritson-Acuna have taken control of the party and are running it as a dictatorship.

This spring's in-house tensions over alleged misuse of personal information of members at the coalition Eesti 200 party has shed light on wider disharmony in the party that made the Riigikogu for the first time after the March elections.

Liina Normet explained that she, fellow founding member Karin Kaup-Lapõnin and Kris Leinatamm agreed to work together and talk to members about how to better develop the party's Tallinn branch ahead of its regional board elections in early May.

"We were also somewhat critical. The board of the Tallinn branch hasn't met once in the last two and a half years and could do with some livening-up," Normet said, adding that this came to the attention of the Tallinn area board, headed by Eesti 200 Riigikogu whip Marek Reinaas.

The women agreed that everyone would call their closest fellow Eesti 200 members – Normet and Kaup-Lapõnin have a lot of friends and acquaintances in the party as founding members. Kaup-Lapõnin wrote on Facebook Messenger that she has a list of members and proposed the women divide it up.

"Karin made a mistake and sent me an email containing a list of the party's Tallinn area members, their contact information and data," Normet said. "I haven't even opened the file, while I have taken all the flak."

Normet explained that Kaup-Lapõnin's aim was to look at the names, which are also available via the business register, pick people the three women knew and could call to further their cause. However, she made a mistake by pulling the names from the party's documents.

She now believes that Leinatamm threw in with her and Kaup-Lapõnin because she was told to do so by the party's executive manager Kadri Napritson-Acuna to find grounds on which Normet and Kaup-Lapõnin could be evicted. It was Leinatamm who urged Kaup-Lapõnin to send more names and took the list to the board once the latter complied, Normet suggested.

The list landed in Normet's inbox in the final days of April, while she received a call from furious party leader Lauri Hussar on May 1.

"He yelled at me, accusing me of using party information for personal gain. I did not understand what he was talking about. He told me that I had been unanimously evicted from the party," Normet recalled. "I was losing my cool by then – I have done nothing wrong! When I had ended the call, Kaup-Lapõnin called me and said that she had also received a call from Hussar telling her to quit the party before she is evicted."

Normet was also contacted by Margus Tsahkna who, according to her account, yelled at her that she should have filed a report of criminal offense immediately as Kaup-Lapõnin's letter constituted a crime.

"I swore on the lives of my children that I would leave the party myself if they managed to find a single person I had called, while they didn't because no such person exists," Normet said.

She said that there was pressure on her and Kaup-Lapõnin to quit the party of their own volition as the board had not made the call to evict her. The incident caused the branch's general assembly to be postponed.

Normet was undaunted and sent all Eesti 200 board member screenshots of her calls list and Messenger conversations the next day, accompanied by a long letter where she explains she would like to see a more active Tallinn area board.

Liina Normet (Eesti 200). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"Marek Reinaas is clinging to every chair, even though there is an agreement in the party according to which securing a new position means giving up the previous one. But he needs to keep hold of every thread of power and ran again for the Tallinn board. Reinaas gave me an ultimatum, saying that he would notify all members of the use of data unless I withdrew my candidacy. But the data has not been used!" she said.

Normet also wrote in her letter to the party's board that because Tsahkna's only accusation was that she did not immediately report the offense, she will now recount four violations of the law by executive manager Napritson-Acuna.

"I said that I will not be taking that data anywhere, and that I expect the board to take the appropriate action. Reinaas told me through a third person that threats are not a good way to address threats. Therefore, the entire board was aware of the executive manager's violations, while nothing was done. The board has failed as a whole," Normet said. She nevertheless remained optimistic when she said that a new board will be elected a year from now and that she is sure the party will be put back on track then.

The Eesti 200 member added that board members Kalev Stoicescu, Züleyxa Izmailova and Aleksei Jašin are not to blame as they have simply not realized what is happening.

Normet also said that her letter leaked through her acquaintances in the board.

"Now, all hell has broken loose in the party's message board. Tsahkna said that the backstabbers, for whom this is not their first party, should quit. Not that Eesti 200 is his first time in a political party. That they are doing major things," Normet said. "We are accused of undermining the party, while the party we founded is nowhere to be seen anymore. Three people have managed to turn the party into a dictatorship. Most members are dissatisfied, with the exception of this friendship group. Tarmo Tamm was not allowed to quit as head of the Riigikogu Environment Committee because he is part of that group."

Normet said that the trio really pulling the strings at Eesti 200 is Tsahkna, Reinaas and Napritson-Acuna. She believes the role of the party leader to be lesser.

"Hussar has nothing to do with it. He is a kind person, a little naive perhaps, and he does not understand how he's being manipulated," she said.

The Eesti 200 founding member said her relationship with Napritson-Acuna soured after the party's general assembly when the latter told her that Priit Alamäe would pull his sponsorship for the party if Kristina Kallas was reelected as chair. When Normet confronted Alamäe, the businessman denied ever having said such things. Normet then wrote on the message board that swapping leaders is not a problem if it is done honestly.

Napritson-Acuna had a way of keeping an eye on goings-on in the office

Normet recalled that when Eesti 200 moved its offices to Kalasadama 4a last year, property owner and fellow Eesti 200 member Tarmo Tamm contracted a small company owned by Normet and her husband to install sinks, mirrors and other fittings.

Normet's husband pointed to cameras on the ceiling, which information reached Napritson-Acuna who looked into getting them operational. For €25, the party managed to swap out the passwords and gain access to the security cameras.

"That is when my partner installed the app on Kadri's phone and showed her how to check the feeds," Normet said, adding that the cameras had been used for security by the restaurant that had been on the premises before.

Normet told Tamm, who was already a member of the Eesti 200 board at the time, that the cameras are operational and the app used to access the feed remained on Napritson-Acuna's phone.

"There were times when we were sitting down together and Kadri told me to hold on as she would take a look at what the youngsters were up to in the office. She was keeping an eye on them all the time, had access. I think she never realized it was a mistake or wrong, she had the control she so sorely needed. But it is not true that signs notifying people of cameras had always been there," Normet said, adding that it only later turned out such conduct was criminal, and that Kristina Kallas was very surprised when she learned of it this spring.

In terms of other violations, Normet said that Napritson-Acuna used Tallinn City Council member Marek Karm's parking permit because the latter uses a bicycle and does not need it. At the same time, the council's rules and regulations clearly state that parking is only made available to council members.

"It amounts to hustling plain and simple, which is what we oppose in the party as proponents of clean politics. Karm is not to blame, he is young and inexperienced. The whip simply told him to register Kadri's car on his parking space."

Eesti 200 executive manager: There are just everyday office issues

Kadri Naprit­son-­­Acuna. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kadri Napritson-Acuna, executive manager of the Eesti 200 party, described Normet's criticism as extremely surprising and rather absurd based on her information.

"Contrary to these claims, Eesti 200 has incresingly made efforts to consider all members' proposals and vision to ensure rapid development and indeed avoid a personal cult from developing."

Napritson-Acuna said that these are everyday office problems and that there is nothing more to them.

"Accusations of someone coercing someone else into doing something are baseless, and nothing of the sort has taken place," Napritson-Acuna said regarding Normet's allegation that she put Leinatamm up to convincing Kaup-Lapõnin to send the data to Normet.

Regarding the office security cameras, Napritson-Acuna said that the premises had CCTV even before Eesti 200 moved in.

"The signs have been there all along, even though they have not been in the most visible places. The cameras are pointed at the outer doors and the general area, and their size and shape makes them hardly inconspicuous. The cameras are there strictly for security purposes."

Napritson-Acuna said she only used Marek Karm's parking parking permit during the election campaign period and only when transporting campaign materials because that was her job.

"That is why it cannot be regarded unethical, and I'm sure it is understandable on a human level," she added.

The Eesti 200 manager could not say what will happen to Normet in the party.

Normet ready to turn to court if apology not issued

Liina Normet said that Eesti 200 has over 900 members who have worked for five years, contributed thousands of hours of their time to put together the best party platform out there, while all of them are now suffering because of the decisions of a few board members who believe that everyone who feels differently should be kicked out. She added that it is her goal to revitalize the party.

"It is not our goal to bring Kristina Kallas back as leader but instead to have an honest and transparent board that listens to and involves members. I still believe that Eesti 200 pursues excellent policy and direction, while there will soon be more rumors and topics; however, once the scandals die down, we will be alright."

Normet said in summary that every stop is being pulled to ruin her good name and that while she has considered quitting the party, she has decided to hold on because she wants to contribute to society, services and political culture in Estonia.

"Were I to quit today, it would mean the victory of evil and that good people get ousted. Politics is even dirtier than we believed. You have to be a very strong and arrogant person to make it there," she said.

Normet has decided to continue as a member of Eesti 200 and plans to convene the party's general assembly if she is evicted for harming the party's reputation. The possibility is afforded by the party's statutes, which were in part written by Normet.

She said that she apologizes to all party members who are forced to suffer as a result of bad management and scandals because the board has not been sufficiently honest. Normet also revealed she plans to run for the European Parliament next year.

She expects the party to issue an apology and said she will turn to court to protect her good name if one is not forthcoming.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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