Third of votes unstable

Kersti Sarapuu.

PHOTO: Eero Vabamägi

Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas and his team took solace in knowing that only two of the party's 27 Riigikogu delegates belonged to former chairman Savisaar when the coalition was put together. Every role call vote of late shows they still number around ten, and that they remain critical.

Observers couldn't understand why was it impossible for Ratas' camp to meet its counterpart half way and give the position of Riigikogu faction head to the latter's Erki Savisaar. The shuffle in the parliament was caused by the resignation of rural affairs minister Martin Repinski as the previous faction chair Tarmo Tamm took over his portfolio after just 20 days at the head of the centrists in the Riigikogu.

The Savisaarians came to terms with the decision not to give Erki Savisaar a ministerial position, which was their initial goal, but at least wanted to see him chair the party's faction. Instead the party voted 18:8 for new council chairman Kersti Sarapuu. Erki Savisaar and Valeri Korb were elected deputy chairmen.

If the vote that saw Tamm take the chairmanship received seven nays from Edgar Savisaar's supporters, that camp had grown to eight members by now. The latter themselves count nine among their number, making a third of the ruling party's faction members quite unpredictable. They meet regularly to discuss matters, make proposals, if not with great success.

The so-called Savisaarians include Peeter Ernits, Heimar Lenk, Marika Tuus-Laul, Siret Kotka, Martin Repinski, Olga Ivanova, Erki Savisaar, Oudekki Loone, and possibly Tamm's alternate member in the Riigikogu, Võru city council head Toomas Paur.

MP Peeter Ernits said there can be no talk of unity in the Center Party faction. Kersti got one fewer vote than Tarmo, which proves there is no unity. That much is clear,” Ernits said. “I believe that electing Savisaar to chair the faction would have secured that unity. To take all the positions and claim there are no camps – it is just, foolish.”

Ernits stressed, however, that the phrase Savisaar's camp is inaccurate as Edgar Savisaar provides no guidelines and learns of the group's discussions and agreements after the fact.

The politician is bothered by what he describes as an outside facade of friendship while a third of the faction is in fact ignored. “It's like walking around with a grenade in your pocket,” Ernits said. “Joint responsibility, pulling the same wagon is what counts, not declarations of unity while giving one group all the key positions and leaving the other with scraps.”

While Ernits and Ratas have not spoken recently, they have exchanged their fair share of short messages. “Jüri is living hard times, it is understandable,” Ernits said. He could not tell where the split in the faction might lead. “The mark of a wise leader is that he also keeps dissidents close,” he added.

This last sentence is aimed at Ratas, as well as faction head Kersti Sarapuu who did initiate private conversations with MPs already yesterday.

“I said after the vote that I want to meet with all the delegates separately to understand their wishes and plans, so we could set about realizing them together. I also met with several faction members among those eight, and I believe everything can be done if you listen to people and involve them,” Sarapuu said.

Sarapuu also liked yesterday as the faction did its work diligently in that everyone took part in voting. “While it is impossible to make everyone happy at the same time, the actions and behavior of the faction left a very good impression. People need to be held together, given information and individual motivation to pursue things that make them feel useful. All will be well; I believe in the best possible outcome,” she said.

Social Democrat Party (SDE) chairman Kalvi Kõva said that the coalition agreement bears the signatures of the MPs of all three parties, and that he cannot see any signs of danger in terms of the coalition's health.

“If we are looking at night sessions, let us hope they will further unite the factions,” he said. “It is natural that all factions have differences of opinion and big parties have big problems; however, the votes have held so far. There are no major signs of danger.”