Chairman of IRL's council Helir-Valdor Seeder finds that electing new leaders at the party's regular general assembly will do a better job of easing in-house tensions and adjusting the conservative party's course than going after articles of association.
What is your assessment of IRL's inner climate before this Saturday's council meeting and after rather stern utterances from past weeks?
I definitely would not overemphasize the importance of amending the articles, approving or rejecting new ones. The articles have not stood in the way of how the party functions on a daily basis nor our political choices. The articles are seldom needed, and it definitely has not been our main problem. Rather it is an excuse or reason to do other things.
Chairman Margus Tsahkna is simply using them to get rid of a group of people in IRL. How would you phrase the party's biggest problem? What has kept IRL from being a viable party?
Our problem is not the low rating of recent years, differences of opinion between individuals, or our articles. IRL has failed to maintain its position on what is a new political landscape; we have failed to find our place, rather we've lost ground. It concerns our tactical and strategic choices at the two previous Riigikogu elections.
I believe we have made poor decisions. Also as concerns ideological choices – what is a national conservative party in a situation where we have the Free Party and the Conservative People's Party both of which are in the parliament. We have not managed to adapt quickly enough while sticking to our core values on this rapidly changing political landscape.
We have become hesitant, made hectic decisions and pursued random election campaigns that have cost us a notable part of our core voters. We have made voters uncertain, which has in turn left at least some of the party's members dazed and confused.
Hence the conflicts, dissatisfaction, falling support.
That is our main problem. We should be addressing these questions, phrasing the meaning of the national conservative mindset in this altered situation, both in the international picture and concerning domestic developments.
Our compass is oscillating, and it seems someone has placed a magnet in there! (Laughs.) If we can solve this problem, it will ease tensions between individuals, whereas matters pertaining to the articles are third rate problems.
Those tensions have really flared lately, and maybe that's a good thing...
… tensions will always surface before elections. They are natural. It seems to me that our tensions do not yet rival those we recently witnessed in the Reform Party and Center Party.
People's critical assessments of each other have been much more modest. Yes, there is turbulence right now, and I hope the upcoming general assembly, or assemblies as the decision might be, will bring a measure of clarity.
Do you rather support Kiisler or Tsahkna's proposal?
Tsahkna proposed amending the articles following his own initiative, and he has said he wants to convene the general assembly to change the articles before moving on to in-house elections. This would mean two general assemblies and a long period that might end up dragging on for months.
Then we would find ourselves in a situation where the powers of the current leaders would have expired with no successors elected. I believe that is not good for the party, considering we're looking at local elections, which is what we should be prioritizing this summer and fall.
I support the approach approved by the party's managing council yesterday (day before – ed.) to elect new leaders at the regular assembly and then discuss changes to articles. It seems to be the simplest option and one members would find the easiest to understand.
What are members saying? There is talk of hesitation, that a lot of people are considering running in the ranks of election coalitions and not the party in the fall election.
If you have principles and a spine, you also need to be flexible enough to play politics. If we have non-members who actively support us and would like to partake in the elections in our ranks without joining any party, we should be flexible enough to meet the election as a coalition. That would also rule out an alternative coalition directly competing with us.
Your rating hovering just above the election threshold shouldn't worry you overmuch as you've always managed to at least double the result suggested by polls.
I don't know about that... A party needs to make sure its image and support are strong in between elections. It is vital. There is no cause for panic; however, we need to work on long-term decisions and views instead of fussing over articles.