Over 30 people leave Center Party after Kõlvart elected leader

Center Party extraordinary congress in Paide. September 10, 2023
Center Party extraordinary congress in Paide. September 10, 2023 Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Over 30 people have quit the Center Party in the wake of Sunday's election of Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart as leader, ERR reports. Kõlvart himself has called for unity.

The leavers include Andra Veidemann, a former party leader.

The new Center leader himself said that: "We have indeed had some notifications [of resignation] in. This does not represent a mass exodus, but some people did give notification, which is very sad."

"I agree that I certainly can't do things alone, and nor can Tanel Kiik, but we can do this together, of that I'm sure," Kõlvart went on, speaking to ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade."

Kõlvart was voted Center's new leader on Sunday by 543 votes to Tanel Kiik's 489, thus replacing Jüri Ratas, whose announced after the March elections that he would not be seeking a second term.

Kõlvart said that he had already discussed with Kiik how to move forward together, ahead of Sunday's congress. "I hope that it was a sincere desire on both his and my part, that, regardless of the results of the congress, we will do our best to ensure that the party moves forward as one," the new leader went on.

Boosting the party's influence and place in Estonian politics across the country is the main aim, Kõlvart added, while making the party one which represents a single ethnicity was not desirable, he said – even as this is a goal which the party has not always been able to attain.

One leading Center member who had previously said he would step down if Kõlvart became the next leader is its former Riigikogu chief whip Jaanus Karilaid.

Once that became an actuality, Karilaid softened his line and said he would wait for the "dust to settle" on the change.

Jüri Ratas meanwhile had told ERR that "dozens" of people have expressed a desire to quit Center; as noted the figure at the time of writing is two-and-a-half dozen.

Commenting on the latest developments in the eastern border town of Narva, where traditionally Center had been predominant but in recent years had seen its influence ebbing, Kõlvart said that: "I had also state that when tension arose between party members, I met with both sides, with the message that centrists cannot express no-confidence in fellow centrists. We will have to come to an agreement. As far as I am aware, each faction was ready to exchange its partners."

On Monday 18 councilors at the 31-seat chamber. who belong to a new grouping called simply Narva and including councilors from the Center Party, initiated a vote of no-confidence in Katri Raik as mayor (link in Estonian).

A faction within Center known as "Narva Heaks" took a similar line, but its leader, Aleksei Jevgrafov, announced Monday this faction had been disolved and replaced by the Narva joint-faction, together with the Narva Center Party as a whole.

The council's chair and deputy chair had stepped down on Friday also.

Such developments are fairly par for the course in the border town of around 54,000 people.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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