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Tõnis Mölder quits the Center Party to join Isamaa

Tõnis Mölder (standing) together with Isamaa's chief whip Priit Sibul, at a Riigikogu anti-corruption select committee session earlier this month.
Tõnis Mölder (standing) together with Isamaa's chief whip Priit Sibul, at a Riigikogu anti-corruption select committee session earlier this month. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Former environment minister Tõnis Mölder is the latest high profile figure to leave the opposition Center Party, in the wake of the election of Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart as party leader.

Mölder will be joining Isamaa, also in opposition, and is the second big hitter from Center to do so in the past week – after the party's former chief whip, Jaanus Karilaid, did so a week ago.

Speaking via an Isamaa spokesperson, Mölder said of his decision that: "After 15 years as a Center Party member, it is time for me to turn a new page in politics. I have thus opted to join the Isamaa party." 

Mölder listed as his main reason that Center was moving in a direction he did not care to go in.

"As of today, the Center Party and its members have chosen a new direction, one which does not match my political views. The Center Party has moved from the center, to the extreme, and ,instead of binding society together, it has chosen the path of retaining only one narrow group of voters," he went on, likely referring to the party's Russian-speaking members and voters.

"Estonian politics needs a strong political party, one which can offer a full-fledged alternative to the backward-looking policies of the current government. A political force that speaks to all people across Estonia – people from Võru, to Tallinn, and from Saaremaa to Tartu. Isamaa is a strong force in the present-day security situation, and can offer solutions in a difficult economic environment."

A little over a week ago, around 40 people had left Center in the aftermath of the change in leadership.

Mölder, 33, had been Center's board chair, and is a former Tallinn deputy mayor in addition to being a former environment minister – a post he held through much of 2021, when Center was in office with Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

He joined Center in 2008. At the March 2023 Riigikogu election, Mölder polled 569 votes in electoral district number two (Tallinn: Kesklinn, Lasnamäe and Pirita), sufficient to clinch a seat under Estonia's d'Hondt proportional representation electoral system.

He sits on the Riigikogu's anti-corruption select committee, before which Prime Minister Kaja Kallas recently appeared, for two lengthy hearings in respect of her spouse's business interests.

Isamaa won eight seats at the March Riigikogu election, a modest number, but the addition of Mölder and Karilaid will boost this.

At present, Karilaid is currently listed on the Riigikogu's website as an independent, but in any case announced on Saturday, September 16, that he had joined Isamaa.

Isamaa, too, obtained a new leader this year – former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu was elected to the position just before mid-summer.

Mihhail Kõlvart was elected Center chair on Sunday, September 10 at a party congress held in Paide, replacing Jüri Ratas, who had opted not to seek re-election. He defeated former health minister Tanel Kiik, the only other candidate to run, in the ballot.

Isamaa is a conservative party, but has a strong internationalist or atlanticist wing as perhaps exemplified by Reinsalu. One of its progenitor parties was led by Mart Laar, associated with the flat tax rate and balanced budgets, in this sense closer to the Reform Party, than to EKRE or Center.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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