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New Kohtla-Järve coalition put together

The newly elected coalition in the Eastern Estonian town of Kohtla-Järve, headed by Mayor Henri Kaselo (SDE) will last to the next local government elections a little under two years away, the coalition says. Some opposition deputies doubt this, however.

The coalition government in Kohtla-Järve, population around 35,000, consists of nine Center Party deputies plus five from the Social Democrats (SDE), in a council chamber of 21 deputies.

As in Tallinn, at the 2021 local elections the Center Party, which had been in power in Kohtla-Järve for a long time, lost its sole majority, leading to a power struggle which was exacerbated by a far-reaching corruption scandal involving several councilors and city government figures and which culminated in that administration resigning, in fall 2022.

Former Viru Prison governor Virve Linder (Isamaa) was elected as the new mayor over a minority coalition at the second attempt, in February this year, and had de facto been in office for a year until the vote of no confidence earlier this week.

It then took deputies almost 10 months to agree on a city government lineup that could find majority support on the council.

The opposition predicts that the coalition will remain weak, however, and will not make it through to the next local government election in October 2025.

Mare Roosileht of electoral alliance VL Restart Kohtla-Järve said: "We are talking about an extremely weak city government."

"What amazes me the most is that the Center Party, which has been in power in Kohtla-Järve for decades, has such a short roster that they appoint young, people, almost children, who have no management or sectoral experience, as deputy mayors."

"I predict that the coalition themselves will replace these people with more competent people, in the near future," Roosileht went on.

Virve Linder has not ruled out a return to the post after the next local election, if not sooner.

"Our people deserve an honest, transparent and inclusive city management, and that is why I am willing to start all over again and I really hope that I will succeed in this in 2025," she said, adding she would likely do this via the ranks of the Restart Kohtla-Järve electoral alliance, given that Isamaa does not boast a membership in Kohtla-Järve.

Electoral alliances are peculiar to local politics in Estonia and provide a region-specific alternative to the main parties; it is in any case viable to run on an electoral list while being a member of a mainstream political party – apart from anything else, Riigikogu MPs may also hold a local council (though not government) seat, and around half of them do, though with participation skewed mainly towards Tallinn.

Estonia's seven MEPs may not sit in local councils, per the rules.

Henri Kaselo and his coalition picked up 14 votes out of 25 at Tuesday's council session, exactly the same number as voted in favor of the motion of no-confidence which ousted Virve Linder.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Rene Kundla.

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