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Jüri Ratas: Others will leave the Center Party

Jüri Ratas.
Jüri Ratas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Former Center Party leader, Riigikogu Vice President Jüri Ratas tells ERR in an interview that others will probably leave the opposition party. Regarding Center's Tanel Kiik and Jaak Aab likely joining the Social Democrats instead, Ratas said it is a good thing both men will remain in politics.

One of your closest allies, Tanel Kiik, has made it known he is preparing to quit the Center Party and join the Social Democrats (SDE). Jaak Aab might also be going down the same path. How does it look from where you're standing?

Leaving a party but staying in politics is commendable, considering the person's contribution. As concerns leaving the Center Party in particular, it is not something for others to comment on. It is a person's inner conviction and decision.

But looking at "Aktuaalne kaamera" news yesterday where Center's deputy head Yana Toom said that the wave of leavers is largely over, I believe she has miscalculated and others will quit Center, unfortunately. It is unfortunate because the Center Party represents the right values and principles. The key is that chairman Mihhail Kõlvart and his board have failed to maintain cooperation and a united team at Center.

What about you? Are you mulling following suit in light of Mihhail Kõlvart's decisions and management style?

I believe that a lot of Center members are thinking about tomorrow and how to make sure the Center Party's values survive in Estonian politics. Because I believe they are the right values. Talking about the social domain, people's coping, the economy, healthcare policy and local governments. I dare say these have been Center's trump cards in Estonian politics. Those platforms, their content has always been strong at Center. It would be a great shame to see it disappear from Estonian politics.

It is clear that politicians are thinking about how to play politics tomorrow, which makes me believe it is possible to remain competitive in this political family.

I will not be making any decisions today. But I think about these things every day, I have since September 10. While every chairman needs to be given time to create an air of cooperation and make the party work as one, it has not happened in the last 100 days, unfortunately.

How much longer will you give Mihhail Kõlvart before you start thinking about switching parties yourself?

I've spent twice as long as a member of the Center Party than Kõlvart, so what matters to me most is what the rank and file members and regional branches think. I plan to meet with fellow Center members all over Estonia, and in Tallinn to discuss the situation. But should such experienced and key politicians really decide to leave the party...

Which party's values most closely match yours, should you decide you can no longer remain a Center member?

It has been the Estonian Center Party so far. I understand your question, but for as long as I have not decided to quit the party, I remain a Center member.

In terms of values, there are the topics I listed – social policy, healthcare, economic policy, coping and regional affairs. Having spent 23 years as a Center member... where Center grew out of the People's Front. In short, it must be a party that stands for pro-Estonian values and those of Estonia.

We are heading into European Parliament elections soon. Do you plan to run in Center's ranks?

Hard to say because of the turbulent situation in the party today. I believe that people elected to the European Parliament must have a lot of high-level political experience, which I believe I have.

But it is very difficult if not impossible to forecast how the elections will play out in a little under six months, based on where we are today.

Have you discussed their choices with Tanel Kiik or Jaak Aab recently?

Tanel Kiik and Jaak Aab are not just my political family members, they're also my good friends. We actively stay in touch and have over the last few days.

Do you understand their choices?

Their choices are up to them, and we will learn of them once they make their decisions.

Will it make it easier for you to decide?

I make my own choices.

But there is no such decision today?

My decision today is that I am not going anywhere.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski

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