Center Party board member and former minister Taavi Aas announced on Monday that he has left the Party citing the lack of direction under new chairman Mihhail Kõlvart as as the main reason.
"I am announcing that I have decided to leave the Center Party. I do not like the way the coup was carried out in the party, nor what has followed it," said Aas, who joined the party over 20 years ago in 2002.
"Under the leadership of the new leader, there was to be a big change that would put the Center Party back in first place [in the polls]. But the opposite has happened," Aas said. "We have lost a large part of the Estonian-speaking electorate. Mikhail's speech at the congress was emotional but empty of substance. And time has shown that it will remain so."
He highlighted that the party has fallen to fifth place in recent polling, even at a time when its traditional rival the Reform Party is doing badly.
"The way in which the party's rating has not changed since the congress, the way in which there has been action, or rather inaction, is really what has led to this. Of course, I had already thought about that. I also wanted to inform those who are around me," the politician said, adding this had not been a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Asked if he thinks he party can regain its position, he said: "Unfortunately, I think that the Center Party will be marginalized and it will certainly be very difficult to move on from this."
He believes the very strong connection of the party's leadership and chairman to Tallinn is behind this.
"This is not right for the rural areas. The chairman is not represented at the state level, but at the local level. The chairman should still be able to act at the state level, then he would or could be an equal partner to other party chairmen and the party could be equal to other political parties," the former minister said.
Aas is the current mayor of Jõgeva and a member of the Tallinn City Council.
Dozens of members of the party have left since the election of Kõlvat earlier this autumn. Many prominent members have joined the opposition party Isamaa, but Aas said he is in no hurry to join another group.
"I've had quite a long and interesting political career," he said. "I can be very happy with what I have achieved in politics, thanks to the party."
Editor: Helen Wright