According to the Center Party's former longtime chairman and suspended mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, the election coalition he is establishing is prepared to cooperate with all political forces.
"We are ready to cooperate with everyone — the Center Party, [Urmas] Sõõrumaa's list and others," Savisaar said in a Russian-language interview with daily Postimees on Thursday. "Our election coalition does not mean that we are standing against the Center Party; our election list is running in support of the Center Party."
Savisaar said that he could not take seriously the Center Party's proposal for him to run in the top spot on the party's list in Tallinn.
Center Party MP Olga Ivanova, who is running on Savisaar's list, said that the party's voter numbers are declining. "Recent surveys have shown that among Russian-speaking residents, the Center Party's support has decreased by 20 percent," she added.
According to Ivanova, an ideological gap exists in the party. "I can't say that there is no ideological gap in the Center Party," she commented. "We need to discuss whether the Center Party is moving toward the right or if we will remain centrist."
Savisaar said that the establishment of the election coalition still lays ahead. "Other parties have also revealed only a few names, not the whole team," he added.
Regarding funding for the election coalition, Savisaar said that he is hoping for contributions from entrepreneurs and donors. "When money for my new leg was collected, tens of thousands of people helped in a few days," he recalled. "I believe that people are ready to support us."
Ivanova added that they are working on securing funding. "We also hope that candidates will bring funders with them," she noted. "We are actively dealing with that and we understand that money is needed for the campaign."
Asked about the coalition's relationship with the Center Party, Savisaar said that he would be very surprised if he were expelled from the party over his decision to set up his own list.
"We support the government of Jüri Ratas and I hope that I won't be expelled, although I can't rule anything out," Ivanova added.
Ratas: Savisaar supporters should vote for Center Party
According to Center Party chairman and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, it would be reasonable for Savisaar's supporters to vote for the party in October's local elections.
"The Center Party is clearly out to win the elections this time," Ratas said at the government press conference on Thursday. "We will ask for the same mandate that we have asked for the past four times — and I think it's achievable." Nonetheless, he admitted that this fall's elections will definitely be intense.
According to Ratas, it is not a matter of in which electoral block someone is running, but the positions in the candidates' programs and what someone is able to offer.
Center Party members who will run on any other list this fall have receved bad advice from their advisers and this includes Savisaar, Ratas said. "I am completely convinced that the biggest loss for Savisaar as well as his voters will be if they can't realize their result through the Center Party," he said, emphasizing that the former chairman's voters would best be able to realize their result just so.
According to Ratas, Savisaar is aware of his position that the best approach would be to run in October's elections with a strong and solid list, adding that the offer for Savisaar to run on the party's list remains on the table.
Party to continue to employ, pay Savisaar
Nonetheless, the party chairman confirmed that despite Savisaar's announcement that he would establish his own election list for the elections, the former chairman will continue to be employed by the Center Party as the party's history adviser.
"He has studied history in university and definitely has good knowledge on the subject," Ratas explained in defense of the decision. "Someone who is one of the founding members and a longtime chairman definitely has much to give in a situation in which the party is to look back in history."
At the same time, the party is not currently paying for Savisaar's legal expenses in connection to his ongoing court case. Ratas noted that the party is prepared to cover these expenses, however negotiations between the party and Savisaar's defense lawyers must be concluded first.
Ivanova removed as chapter chair
Despite the decision to allow Savisaar to remain in his position as party history adviser, Ratas said that MP Olga Ivanova, who is planning on running on Savisaar's election list, cannot continue as head of the party's Lasnamäe chapter.
"If a chapter head is to run on another list, then as of that moment that person cannot continue heading the chapter," Ratas told the press on Thursday. "The board and deputy chairmen will take over the management of the Lasnamäe chapter until its next annual meeting."
Party secretary general: Savisaar doesn't support party anymore
According to party secretary general Mihhail Korb, it seems as though Savisaar is no longer supporting the party.
"The party has always supported its former chairman and has tried to find the best solutions, but it seems that Edgar Savisaar is giving up on the party," Korb was quoted by spokespeople as saying.
According to Korb, it is baffling that Savisaar wants to establish a separate election list, as he himself has previously emphasized that it is primarily parties that can keep promises made to voters as well as be liable.
The Center Party has stressed on several occasions that Savisaar is welcome to run on the party list and has a dignified spot reserved for him as the party's number one candidate, Korb noted, adding that Savisaar was repeatedly offered the top spot in regional chapters this spring.
Editor: Aili Vahtla