Chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and minister of defense, Margus Tsahkna, said on Monday that he wants to change the party’s statutes to limit the number of leadership members, and change the internal election procedure. Tsahkna has tied these changes to his continuing as chairman.
Internal disagreements in the party are driving Tsahkna to Act. When on Mar. 23 party heavyweight and chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Marko Mihkelson, declared that the “Res Publica wing” of the party was holding it back, reactions were pointed, with plenty of former Res Publica members rejecting Mihkelson’s statement.
IRL was formed in 2006, when Pro Patria and Res Publica decided to merge. Each of the two parties again consists of several other groups that merged over time. Mihkelson’s statement suggests that the most recent merger did not produce a united party; this is a view Tsahkna, among others, disagrees with.
The changes now proposed by Tsahkna include changing the party’s internal election rules to the effect that every full member gets one voice electing its leadership. In the past, this was handled differently, with different interest groups and local sections in the party insisting on representation in IRL’s leadership.
This, according to Tsahkna, has led to a situation where the party’s leading body is simply too large to be able to function. In a letter sent to the party’s members on Monday, Tsahkna also states that the oversized leadership is a result of the 2006 merger of Pro Patria and Res Publica, and the attempt to balance the two parties’ interests.
“Today the leadership as a working body is too big to be able to function. Anyone who has led an organization knows that a body busy with everyday leadership issues needs to be able to work, and that every one of its members needs to have clear responsibilities,” Tsahkna wrote.
One member, one vote
Apart from shrinking IRL’s leadership, Tsahkna also wants it to be elected by the party’s members directly, and that each full member gets one vote. “With this change we are making our elections similar to those of the Riigikogu and local governments, and we are abandoning voting in blocks,” Tsahkna wrote.
He added that the current system had led to developments painful to the party, with different sections’ attempts to increase their weight leading up to elections. Some of the party’s smaller scandals were connected to these efforts, as in getting people with a criminal record to join in Pärnu, fishermen in the area of Lake Peipus, and generally a spike in efforts to gain members leading up to internal elections.
“Manipulating votes, forming blocks, and basically pre-determining election results do not belong with the contemporary and democratic political culture,” Tsahkna wrote in his letter.
These political games damaged the party’s reputation and didn’t encourage members’ trust either, he added. Giving every member one vote would get rid of these manipulations.
Dead in the water
In terms of its ratings, the party has been doing badly for months, with voter support according to recent surveys far lower than their current number of mandates in the Riigikogu. With the 2017 local elections looming, its upper echelons are increasingly worried about their apparent lack of support.
In the March party ratings, IRL managed to get to just 6.3 percent support, less than half of what brought them their 14 mandates in the 2015 Riigukogu election.
Editor: Dario Cavegn