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Free Party member exposes illicit campaign financing, is dismissed

The Free Party expelled Silvet after she informed the Political Party Funding Supervision Committee of its practice of funding campaigns of supposedly independent candidates.
The Free Party expelled Silvet after she informed the Political Party Funding Supervision Committee of its practice of funding campaigns of supposedly independent candidates. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

In early March the Free Party expelled Marju Silvet, who until then had been an active party member. Though the Free Party claims Silvet was expelled because she had gone against “generally accepted good customs”, she thinks it actually happened because she asked uncomfortable questions about how the party helped finance supposedly independent candidates.

Part of the Free Party’s approach is to cooperate very closely with local independent candidates and lists. Doing so, the party supports its candidates on independent lists out of funds it is allocated by the state.

As TV channel TV3’s “Kuuuurija” show reported, Silvet asked the Political Party Funding Supervision Committee (ERJK) if it was legal for the Free Party to support independent candidates out of the support funds it received from the state.

Following Silvet’s request for information, ERJK sent the Free Party a notification about issues touching on the financing of candidates and campaigns. Silvet thinks that this was the real reason why the party’s Tartu section expelled her early last month.

The party’s chief operative, Märt Meesak, sent Silvet the leadership’s decision on Mar. 10 in which she was excluded from the party following a proposal by her own section. Silvet told ERR on Tuesday that to this day she had never received an explanation why the party had decided to dismiss her as a member, though she had received a document from Meesak that listed a number of posts on social media the party wasn’t happy with. This document had not been signed by any member of the Free Party’s leadership, though.

“One can’t tell whose opinion this is,” Silvet said, adding that she hadn’t changed her point of view, as they were truthful and represented the internal events within the party adequately.

“The reason why I published them on social media was that I didn’t have access to the so-called ‘free net’ (the party’s internal lists; ed.), it wasn’t allowed to publish opinions about the party’s internal life using the lists, and I wasn’t given the word in leadership meetings of the Tartu section to solve these problems,” Silvet said.

As ERJK wrote, her query had been justified, Silvet insisted. Parties were not allowed to cross-fund the campaigns of candidates running on independent lists.

“The statutes state very clearly that every section has the right to decide whether or not party members are candidates of the party, or run as independents,” Silvet said. “In that sense I didn’t go against the statutes, and my exclusion from the party isn’t just.”

Free Party comments on Silvet, not the issue at hand

The document Silvet received from Meesak states that the move to expel her was “based on the decision of the Tartu section’s leadership, and the basis of her exclusion the corresponding request of the Tartu section of the Estonian Free Party”. A few of Silvet’s social media posts are listed. There is also a reference to a heated exchange between Silvet and another party member at a leadership meeting last November.

Silvet’s behaviour had “gone against good customs and generally accepted norms of morality”,  the party writes. “The reason for the conflict was the fact that the person concerned (Silvet; ed.) was not altogether informed about the party’s statutes or its points of view.”

The party added that Silvet did not “respect the party’s points of view”, did not know the party’s goals, and had not followed its statutes. It added that Silvet was “a conflicted person” that had demonstrated “bad will”.

The party has not yet responded to ERR’s request for comment.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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