IRL ranks require renewal

Andres Herkel, Sven Mikser, Taavi Rõivas ja Urmas Reinsalu konsultatsioonidel.

PHOTO: Jaanus Lensment / Postimees

Parallel to power talks, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) leaders convene today to discuss issues of coalition and details of party council session on March 21st. While no longer directly on agenda, at any IRL meeting election results keep cropping up.

As assured yesterday by IRL vice chairman Jaak Aaviksoo, the party is headed towards forceful renewal: «I would not call it internal tensions. The party experiences overall dissatisfaction with current situation and renewal is expected by both membership and the society.»

Still, Mr Aaviksoo believes that at coalition talks table they will come across as trustworthy partners. «We are not staring angrily at each other in the party, but me, along with many other candidates, are not happy with our election results,» said Mr Aaviksoo.

Talking to others in IRL, one feels an upset with campaign decisions by party leadership. «It was not one major blunder, but many at the same time. For a large part of the voters, the essence of the main promise remained unclear; to present it, wrong faces were picked, and the overall campaign reminded voters of the 2003 Res Publica campaign «Vote for Order!»,» an influential IRL member summarised the mood to Postimees yesterday.

Several insiders have confirmed IRL changing towards Res Publica and Free Party becoming Pro Patria. Commenting on renewal, they underlined the lack of new generation politicians coming from within the party. «If they wish to renew the management, there are but two-three names and these are not new really,» a source said.

Another added the «boy band» style has been to try catch and ride the political waves: «But the trouble is, if they themselves do not believe, of course the voters won’t.»

«Boy band» end

In her letter to comrades-at-party, erring with main election topic was also underlined by Liisa Pakosta – who failed to make it back to Riigikogu. In her assessment, the topic of security was handed over to Reform and the tax reform remained incomprehensible in its presentation and distant for voters.

Also, Ms Pakosta sharply criticized other political-technological decisions in the party like ignoring former experience of new people and awarding them the campaign-face-role alone, while also letting go the old Pro Patria people who made up Free Party to steal IRL votes.

«The programme was the best, the people were good, both old and new, but the party was trapped by political technology. The bunch behind this political technology may only remain for a brief period of time, in the longer perspective this is a dead end road to any prudent voter. IRL’s voters are wise, sincere, patriotic people. They want genuine politics, genuine patriotism,» Ms Pakosta told Postimees yesterday.

While unwilling to name a new head for the party, Ms Pakosta thought leadership change to be a benefit. As a plumbline for a new leader, she specified electorate support at these elections and standing apart from what the party has become. «Clearly, the voters said that the boy band time is over,» she said.

Erki Nool, member of two previous parliaments and critical in his statements after the elections, agreed that the party needs to take a look in the mirror. «Like in sports, we will need to analyse why it went like this. We need to be better at taking criticism; my eight years in politics, alas, says people tend to be quite tender. The leaders who led the election campaign ought to be ready to admit they failed.»

According to Mr Nool, it would be expedient for IRL to remain in opposition and deal with itself. He says he has those like-minded, regarding this, within the party. «The low-wage rhetoric may have been insulting to voters and our leader was not liked,» summarised Mr Nool, looking back to the flopped elections.

When Mr Nool joined what has become IRL, it was still called Pro Patria Union (Isamaaliit). Regarding Liisa Pakosta’s proposal to turn back to the former name, Mr Nool remained hesitant. «That would also mean values more conservative. A glance at Liisa’s stands reveals a trend towards liberalism. With a change like that, the values ought to become settled more clearly as well.»

Analysis pending

IRL chairman Urmas Reinsalu told Postimees last night the board is yet to analyse the emphasis of the campaign, but it would be oversimplification to cite campaign alone for the failing of expectations. «The campaign played its part, but elections aren’t just marketing. For IRL, a critical moment doubtless was being left out of the coalition. Also, we saw a psychological change during the final days before elections take our votes as Reform was pitched against Centre,» said Mr Reinsalu.

Asked when he was intending to resign, Mr Reinsalu said he considered it unpractical to state a moment of time since when he’d not be leading the party any longer. «Several political processes are underway and we will peacefully discuss the issue in our council,» he said.

Today, the delegations of four parties – Reform, Soc Dems, the Free and IRL – are convening to talk coalition. The first topic to be tackled is security. Regarding this, there’s the largest amount of unity.