With 48 votes, Tallinn City Council approved a proposal to reduce the number of council members serving on city council from 79 to 63. The next composition of the Riigikogu, however, will have the final say on any change in the number of council members.
Ten years ago, Tallinn City Council had 63 council members. The number of council members was then increased to 79, justified with the idea that it would be easier for election coalitions to be voted into office. The other, arguably more important reason for the increase at the time, however, was to curb the Centre Party's domination of the council.
One of the initiators behind the change was current Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria), who has now said that the Centre Party wants to maintain an absolute majority on the capital city council, for which it is necessary to revert to the previous council size.
"That would allow Centre to maintain sovereignty in Tallinn City Council even if they earn fewer votes than the absolute majority," Mr Reinsalu said. "And in reality, we saw in the most recent elections that the Centre Party lost the absolute majority in votes, and only managed to get the absolute majority in council seats because so many [election] lists were left out in Tallinn.
City council chairman Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre), however, justified the reduction in the number of council members with efficiency.
"The actual reason is the efficiency of the city council," he explained. "If we compare to 2008, when we most recently had the smaller size of 63 members, 53 regulations were passed that year. Last year, however, 21 regulations were passed. There is not a single mathematical formula that would indicate that a bigger size would mean increased efficiency."
Reform supports Centre, hoping for quid pro quo
Of the opposition, the Pro Patria, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Social Democratic Party (SDE) groups were against the reduction in the number of council members. Reform, meanwhile, supported Centre's proposal.
"We are supporting this as a form of advance payment, with the expectation that our proposals will be supported in Tallinn," said Reform group chairman Kristen Michal. "It's not a question of individual council members, but rather that Tallinn's management costs need to be reduced, which needs to be undertaken on a larger scale. Today's proposal is relatively unambitious."
Reform is interested in cutting 300 city official and one deputy mayor position in the capital, as well as the closure of Tallinna TV and the Russian Lyceum Foundation.
Whether and to what extent the size of Tallinn City Council will ultimately be reduced will be decided by the next composition of the Riigikogu. Tallinn-related issues will also likely be discussed in coalition talks following the 3 March elections.
Editor: Aili Vahtla