Tomorrow Saturday the opposition Reform Party is holding a general meeting to elect a new leadership as well as its first chairwoman. Some 700 delegates are expected to invest outgoing Estonian MEP Kaja Kallas (Reform/ALDE) as the party's new leader, and to pick 16 out of 27 candidates to lead Reform into the campaign for the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Kallas at this point has no competition in her bid for the party chairmanship. Outgoing chairman Hanno Pevkur, who in March was ousted as deputy speaker of the Riigikogu as well following months of power struggles within the party, has called on the delegates to support Kallas.
As Kallas writes on her blog, it her hope to get new people elected to the party's leadership. At the same time, she wouldn't want to have to give up on experienced fellow party members "just because they've been in politics for a long time," Kallas said.
Kristen Michal still seen as playing decisive role
At the time her name first came up as a potential contender for the chairmanship, she was seen meeting with party heavyweight Kristen Michal, which immediately led the Estonian media to speculate that they were joining forces to topple Pevkur.
When long-time party chairman and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reform) stepped down in 2014, Michal was seen by many as his natural successor, but had an image problem following his involvement in the party's 2012 "Silvergate" financing scandal.
After the fall of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas' Reform-led government in late 2016, Michal was traded as the most likely next chairman again, but in January 2017 in the Reform Party's first-ever internal election that went beyond rubber-stamping a preselected candidate, he lost against Hanno Pevkur.
Kallas preemptively distancing herself from Michal
Leading up to tomorrow's general meeting, Kaja Kallas is making it a point to emphasize a certain distance to Michal: "I haven't entered into some sort of alliance with Kristen Michal," Kallas wrote. "But Kristen is part of the team that will see the party win the elections, and our team is open to everybody who is a team player."
She added that she has been talking to a great number of party members and knows that she is expected to unite the party. "But it is also clear that there are a whole number of people in the party to whom I'm not the leader yet, and I still have to prove myself," Kallas wrote.
Leadership election to include small number of local sections' candidates
For the first time the party is opening up the leadership election to its local sections as well. Of a total of 16 leadership members beyond the party's chairwoman, 13 will be members of the national party, and three will be members of local party sections.
All in all, there are 27 candidates. They include Arto Aas, Yoko Alender, Jüri Jaanson, Urmas Klaas, Eerik-Niiles Kross, Urmas Kruuse, Maris Lauri, Jürgen Ligi, Kristen Michal, Urmas Paet, Kalle Palling, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Hanno Pevkur, Taavi Rõivas, Imre Sooäär, Anne Sulling, Aivar Sõerd, Urve Tiidus, Madis Timpson, Maris Toomel, and Mart Võrklaev for the national party, and Aleksandr Holst, Laine Randjärv, Andrus Seeme, Maido Ruusmann, and Jaanus Ratas for the party's local sections.
The general meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. tomorrow Saturday. The results of the elections are expected for around 6 p.m.
Editor: Dario Cavegn