EKRE general assembly elects Mart Helme chairman

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Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond valis oma uueks esimeheks Mart Helme.

PHOTO: Raigo Pajula

The general assembly of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) on Saturday elected Mart Helme, former Estonian ambassador to Russia, as chairman of the party.

Mart Helme

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu / Postimees

Of the 257 registered delegates 253 voted for Helme, spokespeople for EKRE told BNS.

Helme, 63, is taking over from the previous chairman, Margo Miljand.

In his speech ahead of the vote, Helme said that in EKRE Estonia has the much-awaited political force that is ready to stand up against the present political cartel. He said that while Estonia was able recently to celebrate Lasting Liberty Day, or the day when independence post 1991 had lasted longer than Estonia's independence before World War II, Estonia unfortunately was everything but healthy and viable. The crisis, Helme said, is the outcome of wrong political and economic decisions and also "immoral attitudes arising from extreme liberal ideology."

The government program laid out by Helme includes establishing a state-owned bank into which all assets of state agencies and municipalities would be brought together, which would simultaneously function as a long-term lender to young families for the purchase of a dwelling. Upon the birth of each child 25 percent of the young family's loan would be written off.

In higher education the party wants free state-financed education to be ensured for those students who sign an agreement with the state by which they commit themselves to working for the good of Estonia during a specified number of years after graduation.

In the words of Helme, Estonians alone shall decide about the tonality and language of the dialogue with others and about how many people from outside, if any at all, shall be permitted to move into Estonia.

Helme said each new Estonian government needs a new mandate on the EU from the people, which has to be decided in a referendum with clearly worded questions. "Estonian politicians should honestly admit that our choice is between staying with those who are creating a United States of Europe and joining those who desire a Europe of nation states. The Conservative People's Party doesn't see a place for Estonia in United States of Europe."

As regards Russia, Helme said EKRE considers it important that Estonia stop making concessions to Russia and that EKRE would never be part of a government that agrees to sign a visa abolition agreement with Russia.

In regional policy ERKE calls for aggressive interventionism by means of bigger subsidies to municipal budgets and active labor market measures.

EKRE is the result of a recent merger of People's Union, a predominantly rural former parliamentary party, and the Estonian Patriotic Movement. The party had 7,834 members as of Saturday.

Mart Helme served as Estonia's ambassador to Russia from 1995 to 1999.

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