Vice-chair of the Center Party and mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart, told ERR that accepting the €300,000 donation from Parvel Pruunsild could have provoked an existential crisis for the party in the future. According to him, Jüri Ratas and his supporters' assertion that there is a significant split within the Center Party, which impedes democratic procedures, is incomprehensible.
Parvel Pruunsild intended to give the Center Party €300,000. Why do you believe this donation was inappropriate?
Remember that the Center Party has been punished through criminal procedure. Donations have been at the root of all our recent legal and political disputes. I cannot imagine a political party accepting without hesitation a contribution from a person who is himself under criminal proceedings at the same time. This is in no way intended as a rebuke to a respected businessman; however, the Center Party must begin from its current position and circumstances.
Was the donation also intended for the opposition, which was once a joint coalition that you personally opposed?
Clearly, this contribution was a political statement. Moreover, a political organization cannot assume that money is simply a tool. Money is also a political instrument. Accepting such a contribution would also convey a political message from the Center Party.
A political party communicates political messages when it chooses, not when the need arises, and our willingness to deliver such a political message was not discussed.
Also, I believe there is a second extremely important aspect, which is that this donation came with a distribution proposal. Even if we did not perceive any substantial obstacles to accepting this donation, this is a highly risky move from a political, legal and financial standpoint. While this could be a one-time donation, it would be very risky to distribute this money immediately and make several long-term commitments. And the party's position would be even more precarious if it expected this to be an ongoing agreement rather than a one-time donation.
What situation does it show that the Center Party leadership decided to support your proposal over that of Jüri Ratas by a vote of 9:7?
This shows there are party members and leaders who acknowledge their responsibility for the party's future and political image.
The majority of the board, I believe, decided that the party could not assume these risks at this time after evaluating them — because it could pose existential problems for the party in the future.
Does this mean that the majority of the Center Party leadership is behind Mayor Kõlvart, not Jüri Ratas, the leader of the party?
Each member of the board is responsible for taking a decision. likewise, all board members are legally and financially liable for every decision of the party, the financial situation of the party, as well as any liabilities and issues that may arise as a result.
But party leader Ratas says that the leadership is fractured...
There are some disagreements on the board. And it's understandable at times. To be honest, I don't quite understand how such tragedy, if not hysteria, has come about.
Every political organization and major political party must evaluate the political, legal, and financial risks associated with these decisions. If there is a general assumption within a large organization that we are going to take that money and distribute it quickly, and then see what happens, this poses an existential threat to the party.
In spite of this, you and Jüri Ratas hold vastly different views in today's statements. What does that say about the Center Party?
It shows that we have our differences; we have seen that before. The situation that today's vote reflected is not new. There are disagreements between us and some of them are fundamental.
Is the current board fit for its purpose?
Obviously it is. I believe the decision made today demonstrates it. The board has the authority to decide and does not accept decisions from others.
The chair of the Center Party has called a meeting for this Friday. What do you think will be discussed?
Nobody told me about it (the interview took place around 2 p.m. - ed).
Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa