Yana Toom: After the council meeting, I felt as if I no longer existed

Yana Toom is the Center Party's sole elected MP in Ida-Viru County, or, if she retains her MEP seat, will make way for Aleksei Jevgrafov..
Yana Toom is the Center Party's sole elected MP in Ida-Viru County, or, if she retains her MEP seat, will make way for Aleksei Jevgrafov.. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Yana Toom, a member of the Center Party's leadership and a sitting MEP, said that the party's current leader, Jüri Ratas, would have been probably reelected if the party had held a congress today.

What would have to happen during tonight's meeting for the Center Party to consolidate?

Actually, we're not too bad. I can see why Jaanus Karilaid believed that now is the right moment for an extraordinary congress: the regions are either angered or they will be instructed to become enraged, and Jüri Ratas will win in this situation.

In the past, they opposed the congress because they lacked such optimism and confidence, but now they support it because, see, the malevolent Kõlvart and his dynasty deprived you of money. That's about where we are today. And I believe that will be the focus of the meeting tonight. But nobody wishes the Center Party any harm; we will come to an agreement.

Do you think this congress is needed now? Only a while ago, you also thought it should be done?

I haven't made up my mind yet. I believed that a congress was necessary and that the lack of one was a mistake. The irony is that our rhetoric back then was exactly the same as Jaanus' now. We emphasized the necessity to be asking for a new mandate, because both the leader and the board are accountable for the election results. Everyone thought that we were all to blame for the poor outcome.

But, no, they said, there was no need [for an extraordinary congress to confirm the mandate for Ratas as leader]. Now they think there is. The event [of the donation refusal] is not analogous to a general election landslide. But let's see. I have no objections to it and I cannot say I support this now.

I had the impression that some form of balance had been restored but relations are indeed fraught. I felt, for example, that I was not as involved in decision-making as I had been in the past. I thought, alright, it will take some time; people harbor enduring grudges, etc. Now it is clear that the situation is tense.

I read in yesterday's newspaper that some people were anticipating this donation. That there were hopes regarding it and that there was communication about it. Nevertheless, they simply looked us in the eyes and said, "No, we opened the bill and checked to see whose money it was." This is a very unpleasant experience.

You attributed to Karilaid the belief that Ratas would have a greater chance of remaining a leader if a congress were held tonight; do you believe that yourself?

If the congress were held tonight, I think so, yes. But there is no congress tonight... and I have not done the math.

The donation could have been returned discretely, in a way that the media would have never known. Who knows what came into and left our account? But it occurred to someone that we should send an unambiguous signal to the party: we are communicating with people, we are informing all regional leaders that they are being deprived of funds. Which is technically false, given that the Center Party has an approved budget upon which we have based our future plans. However, such information was conveyed. And what is happening now is a genuine infighting. Unfortunately, it is.

Is Ratas' candidacy a prudent choice, even if the extraordinary congress is convened? Almost certainly, he decided not to run previously because he knew he would lose. This does not imply, however, that Kiik and Aab are unable to defending the wing's interests.

Please, do not talk about the interests of the wing...

You yourself said that there is infighting going on!

I am aware of the ongoing infighting, but it is not about... Jüri said he would take on political responsibility for our election loss. This was said on election night. Then I told him that he had literally just pulled the trigger. These remarks must be taken seriously. Then, however, nothing happens, and there is no analysis. So it was predictable that the current situation would occur, but this does not mean that people have different interests.

As for your question, you have to address it to Jüri. I think he is being led to believe that now is the right time, now it's like a historic moment. Yes, today it is, that might be the case. Whether it will be tomorrow, I very much doubt so.

Has Ratas taken any steps to ease the tensions that flared up before the council meeting?

No, I do not believe so. Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I think he was not doing so. I haven't seen it. I have been a member of the Center Party for about 10 to 11 years. I arrived during the time of Edgar [Savisaar]; he was a highly emotional person, he was easily offended. But he got over it quickly when he needed to; he would talk, then do the task, etc.

But after that council, I felt as if I no longer existed. In a sense, I do not exist, as I am a separate entity based somewhere else, in Brussels. I spoke with Jüri on Monday. On a political level, we keep talking and planning, but I cannot say that it was an attempt to find common ground. Essentially, it was a different mode of communication, one that is very laconic and formal.

I guess, I was harsh on Jüri when I said that he did not contribute to the party's unification; he did. Simply put, everyone is different.

How will the Center Party enter the European elections if Jüri Ratas remains in office?

Whatever decision we make, our list is strong. That is clear. The last time we were in government, so none of our ministers ran for election and our party chair was the prime minister.

Are you interested to continue as an MEP?

I believe so. I am not bored with it. And the point is that you have to be able to do this job. And now I finally am. I know who to talk to, which buttons to press, etc. Politics is a viscous circle, and learning all the moves takes time; now I know how to be effective, wherever it's possible.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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