A party fixed by fun
Slip of tongue saves Centre event

The Centre Party council meeting this past Saturday felt like two kettles separately boiling. Thankfully, a blunder by speaker merged the camps in laughter and made waves after the session ended. 

The Centre council was hearing speeches by Presidential candidates.

Candidate Marina Riisalu being absent, her address was read by Siret Kotka. Ms Riisalu was letting everybody know that her time would come someday, that she is bowing out from running, and thinks Edgar Savisaar to be the person best fit to go for the post.

As Siret Kotka ended the reading, Kalev Kallo chairing the meeting thanked Marina Savisaar for the speech. In unison and harmony, the audience roared in laughter.

Already leaving, the folks were still discussing if the slip was intentional or not. Anyway, offered the floor after Ms Riisalu, candidate Edgar Savisaar promised to forward proposal by Mr Kallo to Marina.

That, however, was the extent of unity at the meeting: 90 participants were of the opinion that best Presidential candidate is Mailis Reps; 78 thought Edgar Savisaar was the man. In addition to Marina «Savisaar» Riisalu, Peeter Ernits had withdrawn in favour of Edgar Savisaar.

As the session kicked into gear, party chairman Edgar Savisaar set forth a political statement admitting the party lacks unity.

«Before the congress, there was power struggle, which calmed down a bit after the congress but not totally,» he noted.

Mr Savisaar said they’d have to use the summer to see to it that the party can proceed as one next year. Also, he noted that Estonian party and parliamentary politics are in crisis and internal divisions are not limited to their party alone. In his estimation, Reform Party is broken, IRL difficult to understand, and Soc Dems popularity sliding after change of leader. Meanwhile, EKRE has doubled its support in a year.  

«The Helmes [Mart Helme and Martin Helme, of EKRE – edit] have been turned into a bogeyman, used by reformers and soc dems to scare their children. Looks like in this phase I have been left jobless,» he said.

The meeting was brisk and busy. Before electing the Presidential candidate, the agenda said they were to decide upon salary of the chairman, and media was asked to exit. At the beginning of May, party board had decided to pay May Mr Savisaar a Riigikogu member salary while suspended from being Mayor of Tallinn. That may have been illegal as a board of a non-profit organisation may not set salary for board member – council will have to do that.

On Saturday, majority of the council lifted their hands to approve the €3,500 a month for Mr Savisaar.

For the party, it means over €6,000 a month for Mr Savisaar from its coffers, with taxes. On top of that, Mr Savisaar draws a Riigikogu pension, currently over €2,000 net monthly. Thus, Mr Savisaar now totals €5,500 of income a month.

As for the content of speeches by candidates, Peeter Ernits was the first to speak and state his gloomy view. One was left with the impression that Estonia is a sad state.

Following him, Mailis Reps said the President was not going to be elected without Centre.

«The President elected at end of summer must give his all to put an end to this constant sowing of enmity and war hysteria. Our interests are a unified country and good and constructive relations with all of our neighbours including Russia. Instead of the constant attacks and intimidation, we need to communicate as equals,» said Ms Reps.

She expressed her conviction that the President should be elected directly by the people.

In his own address, Edgar Savisaar told the audience that Centre’s candidates have been worthy in former campaigns as well. According to Mr Savisaar, a President should not stand with back to the people but stand among them.

«Not the duty of President of the Republic to attend the next digital conference. He must see that Estonia passes laws that are supported by the people,» said Mr Savisaar.

After the final speech was heard, secretary-general of the party Oudekki Loone presented the order of elections, pursuant to which a candidate would be elected having pocketed over 50 percent of votes between council members participating.

The votes of Ms Reps were counted first. As the half way mark of 85 was reached, half of the hall begun to clap and supporters gathered around her with congratulations.

As the Savisaar-votes were counted, he was swiftly wheelchaired out and comments to journalists proved elusive.

After her win, as Presidential candidate for Centre, Mailis Reps said she entered the event hopeful the votes would be fifty-fifty.

Asked what she would tell those who voted for Mr Savisaar, Ms Reps said «I believe what matters most is to find the balance. Like before, we all respect the Centre chairman. And this is nothing by electing a Presidential candidate. We will find the means to go on together. There is definitely no need to become bitter, disappointed or draw some kinds of final conclusions.»

At the Centre Party Presidential candidate elections, 169 ballots were issued. One was returned faulty.