The mayor of Vinni rural municipality, Erki Savisaar, was elected chair of the Center Party Council; the deputy head of Viimsi, Annika Vaikla, and the head of Tallinn's Kristiine district, Jaanus Riibe, were elected as the two vice chairs. The council also endorsed the party's position to replace the car tax with a bank tax.
The meeting of the Center Party Council began at 11 a.m. in the Tallinn Song Festival Hall.
"It is not people's justified criticism that is making Estonia poor, but the government's actions, which are exacerbating the recession and not offering a solution," Mihhail Kõlvart, the chair of the party and mayor of Tallinn, said.
Kõlvart said that all Estonian economic indicators are on a downward trend, while unemployment is rising and the government is standing idly by.
"What is needed are quick and effective decisions with a holistic approach that affect different areas simultaneously. The teachers' strike made it abundantly clear just how capable this government is, even though the warning strike occurred as early as September. Instead of coming up with a solution, the prime minister first placed the blame on the teachers and advised them to help the state to promote the car tax, then criticized the local authorities for not ensuring that the state-allocated money would reach the educators, and finally, after four months, found €5 million, which now results in a 17-euro teacher salary increase," Kõlvart said.
During the meeting, the mayor of Vinni rural municipality, Erki Savisaar, was elected chair of the Center Party Council; the deputy head of Viimsi, Annika Vaikla, and the head of Tallinn's Kristiine district, Jaanus Riibe, were elected as the two vice chairs.
"Thank you for your confidence, now it's time to get to work. The Council must take a bigger role in shaping the party's positions," Erki Savisaar said.
"We are the largest and oldest political party, and our more than 12,000 members have a wealth of ideas on how to tackle all the challenges facing Estonia today and in the future. The aim is to ensure an energy-independent country where everyone can live well," he said.
The Center Party's leader, Mihhail Kõlvart, said that Erki Savisaar, a former environment minister and Riigikogu member, has a sound understanding of society.
"The Council is the Center Party's representative body, responsible for developing party policy in between congresses. The Council's duty is to form communications in a variety of sectors, and I am confident that under Erki Savisaar's leadership, we can boost our activities."
Council statement: Car tax to be replaced by bank tax
The Center Party Council adopted a statement at its meeting on Saturday calling for the elimination of the car tax, which was proposed by the government headed by the Reform Party, in favor of a tax on banks that have recently generated enormous earnings.
"For the second year in a row, the government's shortsighted and incompetent economic policies have caused our economy to fall, but at the same time, the Estonian banking sector has enjoyed exceptional profitability, with banks operating here earning nearly a billion euros last year," Andrei Korobeinik, a member of the party's leadership and member of the Riigikogu, said.
The statement says that Estonian citizens pay significantly more to their bank than Swedish customers of the same bank, which increases the financial burden on citizens, exacerbates social inequalities, and limits access to financial services.
"In the context of the national budget, the banks' profits are equivalent to almost three percent, which is comparable to our entire defense spending," Korobeinik said.
"At the same time, the state lacks funds for essential investments such as teacher or rescue worker pay rises, road maintenance, and medicine. This is an unacceptable situation that needs to be addressed."
Lithuania's positive example proves that temporary taxation targeted at the banking sector is feasible and does not have a negative impact on the business environment, according to the statement.
"A tax on the banking sector could be set at 50 percent of profits for a period of three years, during which time the Estonian state could develop a permanent tax scheme. This would help to alleviate economic difficulties while supporting social and economic investment. The introduction of such a measure would also make it possible to do away with the car tax, which is unfair in particular to lower-income and rural residents," Korobeinik said.
The article has been updated with the results of the elections.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa