The Center Party risks splitting up

Edgar Savisaar kohtu ees.

PHOTO: Illustraator: Mirjam Laater

If there is a gun on the stage, it is bound to go off: the creator of the Center Party, Edgar Savisaar, is expected to announce in the next couple of days that he will participate in the local election with his own list, i.e. the ongoing court case is just a foreplay and a warm-up before really stepping on the stage.

While his medical inspection was expected to take four or five months, Savisaar’s health insurance actually came up within less than two months. This was sufficient reason for him and the final straw to join the election – what else could serve as a better and cheaper personal campaign than an absurd court case?

Prime Minister and Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas has been working hard in recent weeks, according to the daily, to keep the party together as a single list. But there are too many interested parties and the air is filled with conflicts, sense of betrayal and disappointment.      

“A new Center Party is being built. The Russian side is making trouble. And one man never forgives betrayal”, a Center Party member clearly hinted at Savisaar. He admitted that separate lists could be formed in other local governments as well, for example in Sillamäe.

“They just gave up after last night’s negotiations – there is no way of reaching an agreement”, one party member said last Wednesday. The row was if not caused then at least triggered by the war of words between the European Parliament member Yana Toom and the party deputy chairman Jaanus Karilaid. And, of course, the placement of candidates in the election.

Ratas has said that he is happy and grateful for the large support. But how can he maintain that support if prominent members may quit the party?

“Latest ratings show the Center Party’s great support. The party has completed its nationwide program and its election platform in Tallinn. I cannot well imagine in this situation that people, who are among the founders of the party or have been members for some ten years, are willing to form their own list of candidates and undermine the support of the Center Party”, Ratas said. “We certainly cannot keep anyone in the party by force. I shall do all I can to maintain the united team of the Center Party”.

To the background of passionate inter-party struggle, public opinion expert Aivar Voog of the polling firm Kantar Emor can only look at impassive figures and admit to BNS and Postimees that the Center Party’s support has been restored as the local election approaches and the proportions of the parties’ supporters are presently similar to those at the beginning of the year.

“The instability of poll results in recent months hint at the likelihood that the proportions of preferences may significantly change in the near future”, the expert said. “Above all the ratios of preferences will depend on the significance of the Center Party prior to the election. If some prominent Centrists should join a non-party list in Tallinn, the Center Party could face a much steeper decline than in May”.

While 46 percent of poll respondents supported the Center Party in Tallinn in February, the figure had fallen to 39 percent by May. But by now the support has increased to 44 percent.

“The other parties’ results will largely depend on internal unity or their ability to prevent party members in larger local governments from joining lists outside the party”, Voog said.