Eesti 200 founder member Liina Normet has announced she is resigning from the party, issuing a damning statement Monday in which she alleged corruption and conflicts of interest on the part of party members.
Liina Normet, who had been with Eesti 200 since its inception and ran on the party's list at the 2019 Riigikogu election, says she will also step down from Eesti 200's Tallinn City Council group, of which she had up to now been a member, adding she will remain as a deputy.
Eesti 200 is in opposition in Tallinn, but entered office at national government level for the first time in April this year.
In a statement issued to the media Monday, Normet said: "After careful consideration, I have decided that the Eesti 200 as a political party is no longer the association that I took part in founding and which shared the same values as I do."
"As a result, I have today resigned from both the political party and from the Eesti 200 faction at Tallinn city council. I will continue my work on the council and still stand for those issues close to my heart," she went on.
Normet also fleshed out the reasons for her resignation on her own social media account.
Noting that she has contributed five years to the party and also some of her own personal funds, Normet wrote that when she started to become more active in politics, she was well aware that it is a dirty business.
"However, that it is as dirty as it is has been vividly taught to me via the ranks of Eesti 200, over the past year. I still believe that politics can be conducted differently, honestly and cleanly, but just not in this dictatorial party," Normet wrote.
"It is my belief that drinks in the car Eesti 200-style, cheating with parking permits, fictional positions, playing with the limits of the law, conflicts of interest, etc. are not suitable for many members of this party," she added, claiming that if something more is not done, and soon, the majority of "educated" people would quite the party before the next Riigikogu election.
Eesti 200 MP Tarmo Tamm reportedly stepped down as Riigikogu environment committee chair in June following allegations of a conflict of interest, given his main business concerns are in timber – he also sits on the board of the state environment procurement agency, the KIK.
At the same time, hesitation over Tamm's replacement, Züleyxa Izmailova, was put down to pressure from businessman Priit Alamäe, the party's major donor in recent years, according to a media report at the time. Eesti 200 denied the claims.
According to the Riigikogu website, Tamm remains environment committee chair, though parliament has been in recess since mid-June.
In May, Johanna-Maria Lehtme, who had been elected an MP in March, resigned over corruption allegations which had engulfed the NGO she headed which provided aid to Ukraine.
ERR contacted both Eesti 200 chair Lauri Hussar and former chair and founder Kristina Kallas for a response to the allegations Normet made.
Kristina Kallas responded earlier on Monday, saying that the issues had been discussed at the last party board meeting, which she did not attend, adding that the party chair shares this as a comment.
Eesti 200 chair: Board made decision that attacks on party from within not acceptable
Eesti 200 leader, and also Riigikogu speaker, Lauri Hussar, later on Monday sent a written comment to ERR, confirming Normet's resignation from the party, stating that the board had addressed her criticisms of the party last week.
Hussar wrote: "The party board met on August 16, 2023, where the decision was made that it is not viable to condone any public attack on the party's internal politics and views, nor of public confrontation within the party."
Hussar added bearing in mind Liina Normet's significant contribution to promoting the party since it was founded, the board saw it necessary to give Normet additional time to consider her position and whether she wanted to both remain a party member and to follow the party's values and obligations, as stated in its statutes.
The deadline for that decision was August 21, ie. Monday, the day Normet announced her resignation.
"However, I thank Liina for her contribution to the party and wish her all the best," Hussar added.
Eesti 200 was founded in 2018. As of Monday at midday, the party had 943 registered members.
Liina Normet was one of the seven founding members of Eesti 200.
She had previously belonged to the Social Democrats (2013-2018), and before that, the Reform Party (2008-2013), according to commercial registry data.
This article was updated to include the written statement from Eesti 200 chair Lauri Hussar.
Editor: Andrew Whyte