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New SDE MP will continue to sit with Center Party in Valga

Ester Karuse now sits with SDE at the Riigikogu, but is staying with Center in Valga.
Ester Karuse now sits with SDE at the Riigikogu, but is staying with Center in Valga. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The power shift at the Riigikogu which has seen the Social Democrats (SDE) gain four new MPs at the expense of the Center Party will not affect the makeup of Center's deputies in the South Estonian town of Valga, even as one of the MPs in question sits on that council.

Valga, which lies on the border with Latvia, is currently governed by a coalition made up of the Reform Party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia, and an electoral alliance called "2.1."

Despite being EKRE's sworn opponent at the national level, some SDE deputies are also in the coalition, while some are in opposition, after the party did not run a full official list at the last local elections.

Valga Municipality Council building. Source: ERR

Riigikogu MPs are also permitted to sit in municipal council chambers (thoough not in municipal governments), and around half do just that, including Ester Karuse – one of the four MPs who quit Center and formally joined SDE this week.

However, Karuse (pictured), who for whatever reason is reportedly a big vote magnet in the rural municipality of close to 16,000 people, will remain with the Center Party in Valga.

That this is possible relates to the difference between sitting with a party group at the Riigikogu, or at a local legislature, and actually being a paid-up member of that party.

In any case, the change at the Riigikogu will not affect politics in Valga unduly, which are already riven with division.

Mayor of Valga Monika Rogenbaum (Isamaa) told ERR's Latvia correspondent Ragnar Kond that: "Some very different people have come together in the electoral alliance 2.1, but time has told, and there have been disagreements on several issues."

"Electoral alliance 2.1. internal disagreements have arisen and now the members of the former single list are divided between two separate factions. But this does not prevent constructive cooperation regarding the matters of the municipality," Rogenbaum went on.

Ester Karuse herself told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that she will continue her cooperation with Center in Valga.

"I have had very good cooperation within the Center Party and we also currently have one member who ran on Center's list, but in fact is to join SDE. So in this sense we will continue our cooperation, and nothing will be changing on that."

Ester Karuse with SDE leader Lauri Läänemets, on officially joining that party on Tuesday. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Center's Valga County regional chair Alar Nääme told ERR that so far as he was aware, no other politican from the region has quit Center, adding that the party is not going to expel her from the Center Party faction at the council.

As for SDE, Karl Kirt, who heads up the party's Valga County chapter, said that the hope was that a full SDE list will be running at the next municipal elections, in October 2025.

That the major political parties do not always run full electoral lists in local elections can be due to, for instance, financial factors, or voting patterns in that region meaning that there is little for that party to gain from doing so.

Electoral alliances are peculiar to the municipal elections, held every four years, and consist of region-specific groups which provide an alternative to the mainstream parties. In practice local municipal governments often consist of coalitions of both.

In Tallinn, the largest municipality by far, the Center Party has been in coalition with SDE since the aftermath of the 2021 local elections.

Six MPs announced late last week that they were quitting Center, after three more had left the party last fall. In all cases, the management of and situation in the party under Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart, who became leader in September, has been cited as the main factor.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Ragnar Kond.

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