Member of Katri Raik Election Coalition caught buying votes

Sergei Gorlatš (left), next to him sits Katri Raik. PHOTO: Ilja Smirnov / Põhjarannik

The signing of the new coalition agreement in Narva was canceled on Tuesday after Sergei Gorlatš (Reform Party), who ran in incoming mayor Katri Raik’s election coalition, was detained on suspicions of vote-buying.

The police’s information suggests that former deputy mayor Gorlatš (43) treated around 40 Narva residents to an excursion that consisted of a guided park tour, visit to the spa, picnic and transport.

The excursion took place during polling week and suspicions suggest people were instructed to take their ID-card and PIN numbers with them, while a laptop was brought along for the purpose of e-voting. Preliminary information suggests around half of participants voted during the excursion. Those who could not vote because they did not have their ID-card or PIN codes with them were asked to do so at home.

A Postimees source claims Gorlatš has confessed to the offense.

Head of the election coalition Katri Raik only recently referred to Gorlatš as the first among her “elves” – people she cares about the most in connection with elections and ruling Narva. The coalition agreement would have made Gorlatš chairman of the Narva city council.

“These allegations are clearly very serious. If there are suspicions, they will need to mature into charges, and in a situation where the deed has been confessed to, it is clear an inadmissible act has been committed regarding which there needs to be zero tolerance. It is the same kind of act that my election coalition and I have been combating. It serves as a lesson of just how easily people can ruin their lives.

There is another lesson here. It shows that you can never fully understand another adult. My heart is heavy, as are those of people on my election list. We are trying to overcome this setback together. Understandably, we need to restore our credibility,” Raik told Postimees. Her core election message at the October local elections was that political culture in Narva needed to change.

Raik still admits that buying votes is somewhat of a general pastime in Narva, while that does nothing to excuse the incident. The incoming mayor also said she will not go along with conspiracy theories, adding, however, that members of her coalition kept an eye on rivals’ fingers before and during elections.

Raik set up meetings first with her own people and next with potential coalition partner Eesti 200 for Tuesday evening.

Head of the party’s Narva election list Denis Larchenko said that Raik’s people will have to solve their in-house problem first. “We do not see Gorlatš as council chair as things stand. We need to return to the coalition agreement and renegotiate. But I believe we will still sign it later this week or the next one,” he said.

Larchenko also said that many parties and election coalitions participated in the Narva local election and all were suspicious of competitors. “I’m sure letters to the police were written and some complaints processed. We knew Gorlatš had taken elderly people to the Toila Spa but were not the ones who informed the police.”

Secretary general of the Reform Party Erkki Keldo, who was notified of the incident by Raik, said that even though Gorlatš did not run in the party’s ranks, he has nevertheless proposed suspending his status as a member of the Ida-Viru County board. “Should these suspicions or charges turn out to be true, there is no place for Sergei in the party,” Keldo vowed.

Katri Raik said she would give a press conference concerning the Gorlatš incident on Wednesday, November 3.

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