Kõlvart: I want to turn Center into a ruling party

Mihhail Kõlvart being photographed hugging at the end of the Center Party extraordinary congress in Paide on Sunday. September 10, 2023.
Mihhail Kõlvart being photographed hugging at the end of the Center Party extraordinary congress in Paide on Sunday. September 10, 2023. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Mihhail Kõlvart, elected the new chairman of the Center Party Sunday, told Vikerraadio that while he has no personal ambition to serve as prime minister, he would like to turn Center into a ruling party once more.

"Every party chairman must seize opportunities to serve the executive power. That is the goal, and there really is no choice of just serving as party leader and minister or just party leader and mayor. The Center Party holds no executive office on the central government level today, and the position of mayor of Tallinn is our peak. These jobs will need to be merged, even though it will be difficult. And should the party leader aim for a central government position in the future, those positions will need to be merged as well. Similarly to how the heads of the ruling parties do today," Kõlvart said.

The new Center leader added that the question of his prime ministerial ambitions is just as unoriginal as the answer. The answer is that the ambition is there. But it is not a personal ambition. My ambition is for the Center Party to become the prime minister's party."

Commenting on Center's Sunday chairman elections, Kõlvart said his chances and those of opposing candidate Tanel Kiik were more or less equal, and both men also enjoy roughly the same number of backers in the party following the election.

"That is why I would prefer not to talk about victory. We'll have victory when we can unite both potentials. That would be a real victory. If Tanel and I can work together, which we have done brilliantly in Tallinn City Government, it will constitute an opportunity as opposed to a risk."

Former Center leader Andrea Veidemann announced her decision to quit the party immediately after Kõlvart's victory. She also pointed out that Kõlvart did not mention Ukraine in his speech.

Kõlvart described Veidemann's decision as saddening but considers the criticism unjust.

"I said at the congress that I know there are people in the party who do not support me and are even afraid of the outcome. But I asked for time to prove I'm worthy of the position. Time to work and prove myself through action. As concerns Ukraine, this is not fair to me. I was among the very first Estonian politicians to visit Ukraine in early March last year, immediately after the war started in February. No local government has matched Tallinn's contribution for Ukraine. We have received almost 50,000 Ukrainians and have heard plenty of thanks."

Center's difficult financial situation did not allow it to campaign on par with other major parties, which may have been a part of the reason the party lost ten seats in the parliament after the 2019 general election. Kõlvart said that supporters will appear once the party proposes ideas.

"It is possible to unite people through clear messages. Once you have people behind you, financial support will follow. It is simple mathematics," Kõlvart said.

The Center Party on Sunday elected Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart its new chairman. Kõlvart got 543 votes against opposing candidate Tanel Kiik's 489.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski

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