After the Center Party announced acting mayor of Tallinn, Taavi Aas, as its candidate for the local elections in October, the other parties commented that if Aas was the nominee, little had changed in the city’s administration since mayor Edgar Savisaar was suspended in 2015 because of corruption, embezzlement, and money laundering charges, as well as having accepted illegal political donations.
Accusations of corruption along with court trials and investigations seem to come naturally with the Center Party administration of the capital. Deputy mayor Arvo Sarapuu (Center) was accused of being involved in the city’s waste disposal business by the CEOs of both Ragn-Sells and Eesti Keskkonnateenused in a committee hearing on May 8, and the trial of Edgar Savisaar for a whole line of charges will continue after an assessment of the former long-time Center Party chairman’s health.
The association of the Center Party’s people on the Tallinn city council with corruption, squandering money, and embezzling city funds to pay for their own election campaigns won’t change anytime soon with Aas as the party’s candidate, his competitors find. At this point, there are two—Kristen Michal of the Reform Party, and Martin Helme of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).
Consensus: No change if Center Party should win elections
Helme remarked that in his opinion Tallinn was clearly a corrupt city. “There is squandering, even if not all of it is illegal and corruption, it’s scary how much money is wasted,” Helme said.
Erik Vest of the independent election coalition Vaba Tallinna Kodanik (Free Citizen of Tallinn) agrees: “There are two words—one is corruption, which gets written about a lot—but the other word is stealing, in the literal sense of the word. Stealing through all kinds of contracts, the money of our city getting transferred to acquaintances,” Vest said, adding that in particular he was talking about the renovation of Linnahall (a decaying Soviet-era convention center in Tallinn’s port area; ed.) and garbage disposal tenders.
Siim Kiisler, chairman of the Tallinn section of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), doesn’t think Taavi Aas elected mayor would change anything. “We don’t see any change at all in Tallinn. The appalling corrupt propaganda for the Center Party using city funds continues,” Kiisler said.
Commenting on the city’s own media, Tallinna TV and several publications among them, the Reform Party’s candidate, Kristen Michal, said that if his party won, they would be closed down the day he took over. And by closing them, Michal added, he didn’t only mean in the sense of legal issues, but in the sense of closing their editors’ offices.
So far only EKRE and Reform have nominated candidates, but the Social Democrats are expected to run with Rainer Vakra, while in the case of IRL there is talk that it could be either Kiisler himself, or IRL MP Viktoria Ladõnskaja.
Helme: Center Party line-up aimed at getting Russian vote
What is clear is that any campaign will have to deal with the matter of Russian-speaking versus Estonian-speaking voters. EKRE’s Martin Helme thinks the Center Party’s line-up was chosen very carefully: “They decided that it’s useful to put up well-known Russian names up front in the important city boroughs, and then the overall campaign is led with an Estonian name,” Helme said. The Center Party will run with MEP Yana Toom in North Tallinn, with deputy mayor Mihhail Kõlvart in Lasnamäe, and with Minister of Public Administration Mihhail Korb in the center borough.
Editor: Dario Cavegn