Long-time Tallinn Deputy Mayor Kalle Klandorf picked up the phone and called Chairman of the Estonian Green Party Züleyxa Izmailova last Friday. The centrists had hatched a plan to add some spark to the Tallinn city government, and Klandorf invited the Greens for talks. All despite the fact the Center Party has enough seats to rule Tallinn alone and Greens do not have a single mandate in the city council.
Izmailova discussed the matter with her colleagues, and the party decided to take the opportunity. The sides sat down together on Monday and soon realized the infatuation was mutual so to speak. Center offered the Greens the chance to add several of their ideological items into the coalition agreement and gave them a deputy mayor’s position that will be taken up by Izmailova. The position comes with those of an assistant adviser and consultant.
The parties sat down again on Tuesday to jot the coalition agreement down. The sudden coalition was formalized with the signatures of Taavi Aas and Züleyxa Izmailova at the Tallinn Botanical Gardens on Wednesday.
Ideology and positions aside, what do the sides have to gain?
For the Center Party, the move is purely a PR campaign as continued hegemony in the capital would inevitably come off as stagnation in the eyes of a substantial group of voters. That is why it is good to involve the Greens with their plethora of original ideas and courage to propose crazy plans.
The Greens could use the platform to boost their popularity and rob the social democrats of some of their voters, making the move a clever one in the context of 2019 Riigikogu elections. It is worth recalling how the Center Party, using Tallinn Television, was one of the guarantors of the rise of the Conservative People’s Party some four years ago. Now it is the Greens’ turn.
Klandorf admitted as much yesterday. “We would be very glad were they to at least make the election threshold at Riigikogu elections. However, they will surely be stronger at the next local elections four years from now, both in Tallinn and elsewhere,” Klandorf said.
Herein lies the answer to what the Greens are looking to gain by joining the city government. The position of deputy mayor will give them a platform to address potential voters they did not have before. Success in seizing this opportunity could pave the party’s way to the parliament.
That said, the party has a lot of obstacles to overcome. The first is surely the Reidi road problem as the Greens still support NGO Green Movement’s court case against the city government. Only now they are a part of that city government. Izmailova said yesterday that the party will continue to support the NGO in the future.
Should the city government win the case and take the project forward, it would constitute a problem for the Greens as there will always be enough people to regard whichever version of the project as not environmentally friendly enough. Deputy Mayor Klandorf hinted that major changes to the project will not be made. “Perhaps we will get to keep a few more trees,” he told Postimees. Whether that is sufficient is up to the Greens to decide.
Future mayor Taavi Aas said that the sides had chemistry from the first. “We did find a lot of common ground, a lot of things Tallinn is already doing or planning to do. And of course, the Greens brought new ideas to the table; it was not difficult to get to the coalition agreement from there,” Aas said.