Kiik and Kõlvart neck-and-neck a month before Center leadership election

Center Party chair candidates Tanel Kiik and Mihhail Kõlvart appeared on ERR's
Center Party chair candidates Tanel Kiik and Mihhail Kõlvart appeared on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" on Thursday. July 20, 2023. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Center Party leadership race is gradually starting to heat up with a month to go until the congress to elect the new chair. The two runners, Tanel Kiik and Mihhail Kõlvart, are campaigning hard for the as yet unpledged regional delegates, and are supported in roughly equal measure by those electors who have pledged.

Around half of Center's regional branches have pledged for one or other candidate, with eight backing Tanel Kiik, a former health minister, and six supporting current Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart.

Kiik-supporting regions include Narva, Pärnu and Tartu County, while the Center Party branches in the City of Tartu, the island of Saaremaa and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the capital, Tallinn.

Adittionally, 31 founding members of Center support Kiik as things stand, while the party's youth wing has stated that Kõlvart would be their leader of choice.

Of Kiik, Center MP and the party's Lääne County regional branch leader Jaanus Karilaid said: "His reputation and background are impeccable. He is not burdened down with the past, so we would gladly give Tanel Kiik a chance," likely referring to various corruption allegations and actual relating fines which have dogged the party down the years.

Meanwhile, director of Center's Kristiine district of Tallinn branch, Jaanus Riibe, says that the mayor has proven his leadership qualities, while the results of the laste Riigikogu elections, when he polled at around 14,500, demonstrated his popularity.

In fact, the mayor is prime ministerial material, Riibe added, and will no doubt one day be Estonian premier, he said.

Both Kiik and Kõlvart were at a Center meeting which took place at the Lääne County branch headquarters.

That meeting resulted in a win for Kiik, and 18 delegates will head to next month's congress.

"Tanel Kiik does not have a 'glass ceiling' above him. It is possible that the Center Party reach the top of the premier league of politics with Tanel at the helm," Jaanus karilaid added.

Around half of Center's regional branches, including Harju, Ida-Viru counties, have yet to make a decision on which candidate to pick.

No other candidate is in the running as things stand.

The Center Party congress, at which the party's new leader, replacing Jüri Ratas, will be elected, as will the party's new board composition, is to take place in Paide on September 10.

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Anne Raiste.

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