Social Democrats most convenient partner for Center in Tallinn

Henry-Laur Allik
, ajakirjanik
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Photo: Tairo Lutter

After several days of waiting and still waters, the Center Party has approached the Social Democratic Party (SDE) for coalition talks in the capital.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said that his party wants a strong coalition government that could ensure continued development and capable city administration.

Kõlvart said that Center and SDE can find a lot of common ground, adding that speaking in the Social Democrats’ favor is the fact they did not try to pit different nationalities, districts and target groups against one another [at elections]. “There are people on the council who understand the opportunities but also responsibility we have for all residents of Tallinn,” the mayor said.

SDE said it will discuss the Center Party’s proposal in the near future. The Social Democrats’ mayoral candidate Raimond Kaljulaid told Postimees that the matter will likely come up at a meeting between the party’s board and its team in Tallinn on Friday.

The Center Party took 38 out of 79 council seats in Tallinn, while SDE had to settle for six mandates at the recent local government elections.

Parties now looking at forming the Tallinn opposition do not believe SDE can bring about change in city administration.

Isamaa, that pursued the most confrontational campaign in the capital, was also the only party to propose a five-way so-called grand coalition against Center in Tallinn. The Social Democrats were the first to sink the idea by ruling out working with the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).

Isamaa candidate for mayor Urmas Reinsalu said the possibility of SDE joining Center in a coalition will not help change political culture in Tallinn and suggested leaving Center with a minority city government on Thursday.

“This would allow us to bring administration to the council level and demand the city government change its political culture and combat corruption, as well as making good on our central promise,” Reinsalu said, adding that the option is still on the table.

“I remain skeptical in terms of SDE’s ability to effect fundamental change working with the Centrist Moloch, looking at the balance of powers,” Reinsalu said.

Eesti 200 mayoral candidate Marek Reinaas described the development as the most logical choice for Center. “They had to launch talks with someone and it seems the Social Democrats were the first in line.”

Reinaas also perceives no change on the horizon. “I believe it will not amount to change. Center is looking for the most convenient partner and SDE seems to fit the bill,” Reinaas said.

Candidate for mayor for the Reform Party – Center’s partner in Estonia’s ruling coalition – Kristen Michal said that Kõlvart called him to let him in on Center’s plans. Michal has more hope for the incoming coalition.

“The good news is that Tallinn will have a coalition in the first place. We said before the elections that dismantling a single party’s hegemony will contribute to more oversight if the partners are exacting. We now expect the Social Democrats to be such a partner,” Michal remarked.

EKRE chair Martin Helme believes SDE made a better offer than Reform. “Two parties really wanted to join Center in a coalition – Reform and SDE, and I believe the Social Democrats were more lenient. They will surely be a more convenient partner, having fewer seats, and are less politically capable overall,” Helme said.

The leader of the national conservatives also said he does not see what SDE hopes to gain by joining Center in Tallinn. “They will be thrown a symbolic bone, red bicycle paths painted blue or something like that, while I’m sure they will also secure jobs, also in the city apparatus. But there will be no change of policy or fundamental change of any kind,” Helme said.