Head of Eesti 200 Lauri Hussar described in-house accusations against him as a malicious slander campaign and said that Eesti 200 is an inclusive and democratically managed political party.
Liina Normet, a founding member of Eesti 200 who recently quit the coalition party, criticized the party's management and accused chairman Lauri Hussar of dictatorial leadership and drifting away from core values. Members Kadri Paas and Karin Laup-Lapõnin are accusing Hussar of the same things.
Hussar told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news that the criticism constitutes malicious activity, which clashes with the party's statutes.
"It is extremely regrettable that some members of the party have set about attacking it in a manner that is not in accordance with our statutes and where it seems that at least one person's own prior actions in violating data protection rules have not proved reason enough to take a look in the mirror and draw the necessary conclusions. The board of the party has given these people time to ponder their actions and propose ways in which they could continue in Eesti 200's ranks. We have given them the chance to speak their mind in front of the party and issue an apology. They have not taken that chance, and instead, they have launched an attack on the party, which I find extremely regrettable," Hussar said.
"In this slander campaign, I have read that we are involved in the practice of [so-called Riigikogu] protection money (direct investments made by MPs, which have long been controversial in Estonian politics – ed.). Eesti 200 has not allocated a single cent of protection money anywhere. There are so many exaggerated judgments aimed at badmouthing the party that I find it hard to comment on all of these claims," the party leader and Riigikogu speaker said.
Hussar also refuted allegations according to which he has a dictatorial style. "I believe that giving these people several days during which to think things over constitutes an inclusive and democratic approach. I have also looked at other parties' relevant practices, and something like this is very seldom seen. Eesti 200 cares for its members, wants to listen to and involve them, while those who no longer wish to be on board would do well to part as friends," Hussar said.
ERR asked Hussar whether the rest of the party's board agrees.
"The decision to send this message to the members in question was unanimous when the board last met," he replied.
Liina Normet, in an article originally published in Eesti Päevaleht, described an incident she referred to as "drinks in the car a la Eesti 200" in which Hussar, Kadri Napritson and Marek Reinaas made use of the former's official car. The trio allegedly took the Riigikogu car to her place where they drank champagne and later ordered the same car to come pick them up instead of taking a taxi.
Hussar told Kuku Raadio's "Sihik" current affairs talk show that the allegations have been blown out of proportion and that he simply used his official car to take Normet a bottle of champagne after the end of the workday before asking the driver to take him home. "It is entirely within legal bounds, which I have confirmed with the director of the Office of the Riigikogu," the speaker remarked.
Eesti 200 deputy chair Kristina Kallas told ERR that there's been feuding inside the party for some time which has now culminated in Normet leaving. She described it as regrettable.
Regarding the incident with Hussar's Riigikogu car, Kallas said she sees no misuse and described it as normal use of an official vehicle.
Uibo: Ours is a great company of terrific people
Toomas Uibo, Eesti 200's Riigikogu deputy whip, told Raadio 2 Monday morning that for him, the matter of criticism from three vocal members has been put to bed. "I believe we need to wish Liina all the best outside politics, or she might find a new party," he said.
"I will not be speculating as to what happened exactly. There are bound to be differences and misunderstandings when a lot of people come together. Someone will be disappointed. It is natural. No one is safe from that," Uibo suggested.
The MP added that he does not feel Eesti 200 have abandoned their earlier principles and that he has not spent a single cent of his Riigikogu expenses benefits.
"We have a great group of terrific people, experts in their chosen fields, and we are doing precisely what we came together to do," he said in summary.
The recent Kantar Emor poll puts support for Eesti 200 at 7.4 percent (this was 17 percent as recently as April – ed.), while it was 8.4 percent in the Norstat poll from last Wednesday.
Editor: Marcus Turovski