Toom, Kõlvart both attracted to potential governmental role

Mihhail Kõlvart and Yana Toom (Centre).
Mihhail Kõlvart and Yana Toom (Centre). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Two Centre Party leading lights who, by their own admission, have their eye on a government post following the March general election, MEP Yana Toom and Tallinn City Council chair Mihhail Kõlvart, are somewhat more lukewarm about sitting in the Riigikogu.

Speaking to ERR Russian-language radio news, Mr Kõlvart said that he was sceptical about sitting in parliament, which, running as he is in the number one spot in Lasnamäe and Pirita district and number three for the Centre Party overall, he is virtually guaranteed of, but would cherish an executive (ie. ministerial) role.

Estonian government ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu, but are generally selected once a government is formed from the ranks of those who won seats in the parliamentary election. When this happens, the next person on the party's list takes that new minister's seat. Occasionally, this substitute has to make way for the minister if they step down (as happened with Urve Palo, formerly of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in August), and ministers can also be plucked from the ranks of leading civil servants, as also happened in 2018 with the appointment of Riina Sikkut (SDE) to the health and labour ministerial role.

Other situations where seats are switched include when MPs take maternity leave or are sick.

Politics mirrors sport

If an MP leaves the party, they retain their seat as an independent (which again happened with Urve Palo) or may vote with another party's voting bloc or even join that party.

''In politics, as in sport, decisions are taken not before the competition or election, but after,'' said Mr Kõlvart, a noted martial artist who was born in Kazakhstan.

''Hence why it's early days to be talking about this; all the more so since results hinge not only on my performance, but on the party's too,'' he continued.

''It's important for me that my work in politics can be seen in terms of measurable goals. In other words I would like to see myself in a position where I could realise my potential effectively, most especially with the executive,'' he explained.

MEP Yana Toom who is running in sixth place in the overall list and has sat in the European Parliament since 2014 has previously made no secret of the fact that the Riigikogu would not interest her, but a governmental role may well do, if Centre consolidated its position.

Winning an election outright a priority

''It's necessary to win the election first and then hold coaltion talks from that position of strength,'' said Ms Toom.

''Getting into office through the back door, as we did two years ago, is one thing, but winning an election is an entirely different matter,'' she continued.

Centre became the majority coalition partner in November 2016 following a deal with junior partners Isamaa/Pro Patria and SDE, after the departure of Reform and a vote of no confidence in then-Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas. The party has subsequently hovered around the top spot in terms of opinion poll support and seats, but is currently second to Reform on both counts.

Ms Toom remained sanguine about a possible govenrmental opening: ''I could even by agriculture minister, but I don't think agriculture would be happy with me,'' she quipped.

The current agriculture minister, or more accurately the Minister of Rural Affairs, is also a Centre member, Tarmo Tamm.

The general election is on 3 March. The European election takes place over two phases in late May.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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