While the large parties can set aside money to campaign for the local polls in October, the smaller parties and independent election coalitions depend on donations—small ones in the case of some, and likely much larger ones where political heavyweights and businessmen are involved.
Erki Vest, the candidate for mayor of the independent list Vaba Tallinna kodanik (“Free citizen of Tallinn”), said that the last campaign in 2013 had cost them some €30,000. This time they were hoping to manage with quite a bit less, as they were concentrating on social media and PR a lot more.
Vaba Tallinna kodanik’s campaign concentrates on the depolitization of the city’s government, greater involvement of the city council in governance, more rights for the city’s boroughs, city planning according to modern standards, and making Tallinn a good place for families with children.
The Estonian Greens have no campaign budget, according to their chairwoman, Züleyxa Izmailova. Their campaign is based on voluntary contributions and work. The volunteers had already done a lot of good work, Izmailova said. She stressed that they weren’t planning to “pollute” the city with advertising, but were instead concentrating on social media.
Votes and money: Savisaar’s list and “Active Tallinn” merge
According to Center Party MP Olga Ivanova, Edgar Savisaar’s list for the upcoming elections couldn’t manage with €30,000. The list’s leading candidates, including the former long-time chairman as well as Ivanova, have been visible all around the city on large billboards for weeks, an approach to campaigning that isn’t cheap.
The main materials for their campaign had been ordered, Ivanova said, and now they were looking for ways to support the individual candidates. She didn’t want to specify just how expensive their campaign was going to be.
Savisaar’s list will merge with Tegus Tallinn (“Active Tallinn”), the list of businessmen Urmas Sõõrumaa and Jüri Mõis. How this will affect their ongoing campaign isn’t clear, though the Estonian media have been unanimous in their judgment that the merger is bringing together a candidate with the potential to get plenty of votes (Savisaar) and two candidates with a lot of money (Sõõrumaa, Mõis).
There is considerable history between the main actors of the two lists as well. Sõõrumaa’s businesses have been profiting for years from contracts signed with the city years ago, in some cases more than a decade. As the city’s administration has admitted, not all of them are advantageous—in the case of Sõõrumaa’s school buildings maintenance contracts, the city paid in excess of €28 million within less than ten years—while the original projections talked about €30 million distributed over thirty years.
Based on this common history, there has been criticism that Sõõrumaa is only trying to protect his financial interests.
Editor: Dario Cavegn