Minister of Social Protection Kaia Iva and Deputy President of the Riigikogu Helir-Valdor Seeder are running for the chairmanship of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL). The party’s general meeting and elections are set for May 13.
There were no other candidates, the party’s press officer, Priit Värk, told ERR, adding that he couldn’t currently share any information about candidates for IRL’s leadership, or for the deputy positions.
The party’s current chairman, Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna, tried earlier this year to bring about a change towards a more transparent and democratic internal set-up for IRL. As the party’s leadership turned against his proposals, Tsahkna said that without changed statutes, it didn’t matter who would eventually run the party, and that he wouldn’t be a candidate for chairman any more.
Political analyst Tõnis Saarts believes that the fact that Seeder has been around for a long time could work against him. At the same time, the fact that with Iva a woman would take the lead may go against what the conservative party wanted.
Seeder had the advantage that he was the candidate of the party’s traditional values, and perhaps even more national-conservative than previous chairmen. “This might impress traditional voters within IRL up to an extent. His disadvantage is of course that his election wouldn’t have the same effect as someone new. He is so traditional and predictable that with him, IRL would have a hard time attracting new voters,” Saarts told ERR’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” newscast on Thursday.
Iva, on the other hand, had the potential to approach voters beyond IRL’s remaining core audience. “Iva isn’t a protege of the wire-pullers in IRL. This means that asserting herself in the party may take a while,” Saarts opined. Also, the fact that she was a woman was new to the party, which had been concentrated on men throughout its history.
If she made the race, the new chairwoman, active and approachable as she was, got get the party votes out of other segments than IRL’s typical audience, Saarts said.
Saarts: Local elections crucial
In the April party ratings, IRL was overtaken by the Estonian Greens and dropped below the election threshold. Whoever is elected chairman on May 13 will face a difficult election campaign in the second half of the year.
According to Saarts, the upcoming local elections in autumn could become a matter of life or death to the party. “If it should happen that they get a poor result in Tallinn or even in Tartu, or if they can’t get on the city council, then I think this pretty much amounts to a death sentence for the party,” Saarts said.
The party needed to keep its organization from falling apart, Saarts added. For instance, prominent local politicians preferring to run on independent lists instead of those of the party would mean an even greater loss of support for the party.
Editor: Dario Cavegn