Parliamentary (Riigikogu) member Peeter Ernits has reportedly left the Centre Party and will join the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE). Mr. Ernits is the second Centre MP to leave in recent weeks. Olga Ivanova quit in August.
The move comes less than a week after Centre leader and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that Mr. Ernits would be staying put.
Speaking on Vikerraadio's ''Prime Minister in the Studio'' ("Stuudios on Peaminister"), Mr. Ratas said: "I have spoken with Peter on the matter and he says he is going nowhere.''
Mr. Ernits joined the Centre Party in September 2015 and was chair of the party's Tartu County district. He previously worked as a journalist.
Coalition at limits of majority
Together with former minister Urve Palo's August resignation from the Social Democratic Party (SDE), the development means that with 51 seats, the coalition now has the bare minimum for a majority at the 101-seat Riigikogu. Urve Palo did however state she would continue to vote with SDE on parliamentary matters.
Mr. Ernits' departure was not unexpected, sources say. He was in the [former Tallinn mayor] Edgar Savisaar camp in a party split resulting in Jüri Ratas' election as leader. Mr. Ratas became prime minister three weeks later.
Jüri Ratas stated that two other Centre members, Mart Sülts and Heimar Lenk, would also stay at Centre.
The party faced a rebellion in the Narva branch in August, when several city council members quit, forming the ''Our Home, Narva'' (''Meie Kodu Narva'') grouping.
Editor: Andrew Whyte