A prominent Center Party MP and chair of the party's Pärnu County regional branch has strongly criticized a "back room" practice when coming to make key decisions – a practice which was behind Center's poor performance at the March Riigikogu election, he says.
Center, in opposition, is set to elect a new party chair in September, to replace current incumbent Jüri Ratas, who will not be seeking re-election.
Speaking before Pärnu County party members on Friday, Andrei Korobeinik, who is also a Center Party board member, said: "It is my belief that both Mihhail Kõlvart and Tanel Kiik are worthy candidates for the position of Center Party chair," referring to the only two politicians to have declared themselves in the running.
"However, I consider it vital that the new party chair renounces the services of the party's "back room". Jüri Ratas was not able to manage this, and I myself have no confidence that Tanel Kiik, whom Jüri Ratas proposed as his replacement, can either /---/. It was the incompetent decisions of a narrow back room circle that is behind the impetus in the decline of our party," Korobeinik went on.
Korobeinik declined to name names with reference to this "back room", though enumerated anonymously-made decisions which, in his view, were of no benefit to the party, as the by-product of this way of doing things.
Korobeinik noted the party's trajectory over the past year or so – from being in office with Reform, to being out-of-office, to losing 10 seats on March 5, all amid plummeting party preference survey ratings.
The MP also identified the electoral campaign strategy as the worst manifestation of the ill-conceived decisions he earlier referenced.
Party lists were based mainly on nepotism, with the upshot being that the party is no longer represented in four key electoral districts (out of 11), as weak candidates were put at the number one spot in election lists, at the expense of stronger candidates who would have garnered more votes.
Korobeinik also claimed that provincial Estonia had largely been left to stew by Center, " although I repeatedly made proposals to optimize the structure of the party within the existing budget," he said.
"Instead of involving regions and party members, the strategy of our party was decided by individual people who clearly did not get their get on with the job," he added.
Center's performance in one of its former heartlands, Ida-Viru County, had already been weak at the 2019 election, and this trend intensified this year,.
The outcome is that Center's competitors have grown stronger, " and inequality is rising due to the growing tax burden," Korobeinik added.
I hope that regardless of the results of the congress, the party will be able to move forward united, the influence of the "back room" will diminish, and finally we will learn to use our huge potential in the form of 14,000 party members," Korobeinik summed up his message.
Korobeinik also criticized his own Pärnu County branch decision to back Kiik for the chairmanship race, while Korobeinik himself had proposed supporting both candidates euqlly.
"The Center Party has nearly 30 regions, and some of them overwhelmingly support one or an other candidate, but the Pärnu County region is definitely not one of these," he said, adding that in other regions one candidate had been unnecessarily chosen over another - for example in Haapsalu, where the supporters of the "wrong candidate" missed out on getting an invite to September's party congress, he said.
Picking one candidate over another is divisive, Korbeinik added.
Friday's Pärnu County Center Party meeting also saw Jüri Ratas and several other leading members, all of them backers of Kiik (except for Korobeinik himself, who was also nominated), to the party board.
The Center Party congress will be held in Paide on September 10 at a local sports hall, and the election for party chair, party board members and other party organs will take place.
Over 1,000 Center delegates are expected in Paide.
Mihhail Kõlvart is Mayor of Tallinn, while Tanel Kiik is a current MP, and former health minister.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots