The latest chapter in Reps’ embezzlement scandal that came to light on Sunday sent the Center Party into a state of shock for a few days. The party brass discussed the incident informally on Monday, while a party board meeting was held online on Tuesday. Reps did not participate.
After an hour’s deliberation, it was decided that Reps, who resigned from the post of education minister in November but still headed Center’s coalition talks team, needs to resign as the party’s Riigikogu group head and deputy chairman.
No new deputy chairman named
Mailis Reps is yet to comment on the board’s decision. Postimees tried to reach her at home but was told by the politician’s representative that Reps is not available for comment.
“Mailis does not want to see anyone right now. She is not in the mood…” a woman who was busying herself in the courtyard told journalists. Reps also failed to answer her phone.
Center Party leader Jüri Ratas said that MPs and the board decided that Reps needs to concentrate on defending herself in the investigation, and that the party can move forward after making difficult but necessary decisions.
“I would like to thank Mailis who has contributed greatly to Estonia’s development and the activities of the Center Party as a meritorious and capable politician, deputy chairman, Riigikogu faction head and minister,” Ratas said.
He did not name a new deputy chairman, while the new Riigikogu group head will be elected as soon as possible. The board has suggested electing Jaanus Karilaid as faction chair and Kersti Sarapuu and Andrei Korobeinik as deputy chairmen.
Jaanus Karilaid said that no member of the board was happy with the situation. “Organizing a birthday party entails paying for it, and all of these details and facts have taken members by surprise,” Karilaid said.
Enn Eesmaa said that Reps did not attend the virtual meeting. “Jüri Ratas has spoken to her on numerous occasions, including today (yesterday – ed.). I cannot speak for the others. I have not been in touch with her.”
“I would not go into detail. However, no one raised the issue of Reps continuing as a Center member. The consensus was that the two positions she is giving up are enough at least until the court rules,” Eesmaa said.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said that stripping Reps of the positions was a sensible and reasoned call. He added that Reps will not be thrown out of Center in the middle of a criminal investigation.