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Herkel announces bid for re-election as Free Party chair

Free Party chairman Andres Herkel in an appearance on ETV's
Free Party chairman Andres Herkel in an appearance on ETV's "Studio 1." Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Andres Herkel, incumbent chairman of the opposition Free Party, announced on Thursday that he intends to run for re-election as party chairman.

"I will once again run for the position of chairman at the Free Party's extraordinary general meeting on 30 September," Herkel wrote in his blog on Thursday, where he also highlighted the motives behind his candidacy.

According to Herkel, his first motive was the issue of trust, as only a vote will determine whether criticism that has been unleashed within the party has gained wider support.

"Second, I cannot agree with the accusations that have been leveled against me," he said, referring to issues related to the drawing up of the party programme, the involvement of party members and the use of money highligihted by Kaul Nurm, Herkel's rival candidate and current deputy chairman of the party.

Internal conflicts within the Free Party were made public in mid-August, when chairwoman of the party's Pärnu branch Heli Künnapas sent a letter to the board in which she demanded the resignation of party chairman Andres Herkel and the election of a new board. Over the following weeks, Jaanus Ojangu, Vello Väinsalu, Elo Lutsepp, Monika Haukanõmm and Vahur Kollom all resigned from the party board.

Tensions escalated further in early September when the board decided to organise an election for chairman at an extraordinary general meeting but refused to elect a new board. Nevertheless, the board of the party on 13 September decided to organise elections for all electable bodies — including not only the chairman but also the board, honour court and audit committee of the party — at the extraordinary general meeting.

Free Party remains below Riigikogu election threshold

According to a party ratings survey commissioned by BNS and daily Postimees and conducted by Kantar Emor in August, the opposition Free Party had the support of 4.7% of voting-age Estonian citizens, up from 3% in June but still falling below the 5% election threshold.

According to party ratings based on a poll commissioned by ERR's online news and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS, the Free Party remained below the threshold in September, earning the support of just 2% of voters; support for the opposition party has remained below the 5% threshold for exactly one year.

With eight seats in the 101-seat Riigikogu, the Free Party is the second smallest force currently represented in th Riigikogu.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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