Center removes Loone

Oudekki Loone.

PHOTO: Liis Treimann

The board of the Center Party removed secretary-general Oudekki Loone from office yesterday, in the aftermath of the party's letters of guarantee scandal. The board also made a proposal to hold an extraordinary party congress on November 5 that should see Jüri Ratas run for chairman. Loone's duties will be taken over by former MP and social minister, board member Jaak Aab.

«The decision establishes that in connection with confusion over guarantee letters and the fact that the board was left in the dark, the board has lost trust in secretary-general Oudekki Loone,» press representative Taavi Pukk communicated.

Yana Toom, Erki Savisaar, and Mihhail Kõlvart were the only members of the board who voted against Loone's removal. Pukk said that party chairman Edgar Savisaar, Olga Ivanova, Siret Kotka, and Kalev Kallo were not present for the meeting.

Deputy chairman of the Center Party Jaanus Karilaid said that the agenda of the extraordinary congress will include new statutes, board and chairman elections. He added that the party's chairman candidate is still a matter of some discussion. «We want to make management clearer and make sure cases such as the matter of the letters of guarantee never happen again,» Karilaid said.

Recent presidential candidate Mailis Reps said that she will not be running for chairman. She added, however, that the party has a candidate.

It is probable Reps was pointing to Riigikogu Deputy Chairman Jüri Ratas, who has run against Savisaar in the past and whose candidacy has been suggested in recent weeks by Karilaid. Ratas said he will have to discuss his potential candidacy with his team and members of the party.

Should Ratas decide against running, the fight will probably be picked up by Kadri Simson, who lost to Savisaar by a hair last November.

Reps told journalists after the meeting that the focus was on the extraordinary congress. When asked who will be the next chairman, Reps said it is no secret and that there has long been a candidate. «Let the person make it public tomorrow; it is not me,» Reps said.

Reps added that once it was clear Loone would be removed, the latter stood up and walked out without uttering a single word. «Oudekki is now a part of the guarantee letters because she has told so many half-truths and peculiar things.»

The recent presidential hopeful said that she had no knowledge of the second letter until the very last moment. «The arbitrage tribunal had already concluded proceedings and we still didn't know. We already had fines for delay by that time. Those fines stretched into the thousands, while we were told the letters are meaningless, and that we would get our hands on the originals very soon,» she added.

Reps said that both the chairman and secretary-general were aware of the letters.

Acting secretary-general Jaak Aab said that the board made several decisions in need of attention that will mount to a lot of work. He added that the board also agreed that it needs to get to the bottom of the party's financial situation and determine precisely what kind of obligations the party has been entered into. «We need to determine that to finally put an end to all this confusion,» Aab said.

Member of the Center Party's Riigikogu faction Heimar Lenk told journalists upon his arrival that a coup attempt has begun in the party. «A week ago Karilaid told me it would be war from Saturday,» Lenk said.

He added that the board was convened to sum up the presidential election and discuss the guarantee letters. Lenk said it was done at the last minute, and that he did not know whether he would have a meeting to attend in the evening or not earlier in the day.

Lenk came out of the meeting room to talk to journalists after the guarantee letters discussion. «One side asked us here to discuss. Some came, and now they're arguing,» he said. «There is no question, it is an attack. Those attacking from Kadri Simson's wing knew about the letters.»

Mailis Reps said before the meeting that she believes chairman Edgar Savisaar sabotaged her chances of reaching the second round of voting in the Electoral College on Saturday. «Calculations by the backrooms of four parties show that it was Savisaar,» Reps said. «I suppose he believed he was making history.»