Members of the non-parliamentary People's Unity Party (RÜE) wish to join one of the major parties, their chair Paavo Raudsepp has said.
Speaking to ERR, Mr. Raudsepp said that his members had their sights on one of three parties which currently have seats in the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu), namely either the right-libertarian Free Party (eight seats in the Riigikogu), the right-leaning Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE – seven seats) or the conservative Isamaa/Pro Patria party (12 seats and part of the current coalition government).
The RÜE, which includes its co-founder, former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2002-2005) and former MEP (2009-2014) Kristiina Ojuland amongst its ranks and describes itself as Conservative-Liberal, currently has no seats in the Riigikogu. Ms. Ojuland had previously been a member of the free market-championing Reform Party.
Decision to be made soon
Paavo Raudsepp has said that he wants to have the merger confirmed during September.
"We have been in talks with all three [parties] and one has been sifted out. Members have made agreements and have shaken hands, but haven't signed anything yet," Mr. Raudsepp said, declining to say which of the three parties it had met with.
Mr. Raudsepp said that his initial overall desire would be for all the Estonian right-leaning parties, his own and the three mentioned above, to converge and act as one party in the forthcoming general election in March 2018.
"After all, we are so small and so weak in total. Small parties tend not to have bright prospects," he added, though said that if any merger was found wanting, the RÜE would compile its own election list to run on (the Estonian parliamentary elections follow a modified version of the d'Hondt system of proportional representation where parties put up lists of candidates in the 12 electoral districts across the country).
As of August 28, the RÜE has 513 members; a party must have at least 500 members on its list to be active in Estonia. Despite having only a little over 600 members, the Free Party is represented in parliament with eight seats. The Free Party has recently seen a leadership challenge issued to its current chief Andres Herkel as well as at least one resignation of a key member, and is in the middle of a self-requested week's period of grace while it gets to grips with internal problems.
Other parties suffering splits include the coalition senior partner the Centre Party, whose Narva branch saw the resignation of a sitting MP, Olga Ivanova, and the formation by a couple of dozen of its members on the Narva City Council of a breakaway grouping called 'Our Home Narva' ('Meie Kodu Narva'). Ms. Ivanova remains in the Riigikogu as an independent, as do former Free Party leader Artur Talvik (himself in the process of forming a new party) and former Pro Patria member Marko Mihkelson.
Yet another nascent party calling itself Estonia 200 boasts former Minister of Defence and ex-Isamaa member Margus Tsahkna on its list.
The Riigikogu elections take place on 3 March 2019.
Editor: Andrew Whyte