Center Party returns major donation, chairman announces rift in party leadership

Photo: Kollaaž

Estonian opposition Center Party deciding to return a donation of 300,000 euros from businessman Parvel Pruunsild indicates a divide within the party leadership, according to Center leader Juri Ratas.

"This shows that the party leadership is divided, and it is my duty as party chairman to do everything to keep the party together," Ratas wrote on Thursday in the Center Party's internal mailing list. He invited the governing board, party group in the parliament, regional leadership, and members of the extended board to an extraordinary meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the future of the party.

By a vote of nine to seven, Center's governing board decided on Thursday to return Pruunsild's 300,000-euro donation.

"My proposal to strengthen the party with this donation was voted down in the governing board. At the proposal of Mihhail Kolvart, with a vote of nine against seven, this money will be returned. In my opinion, the return of the donation is a sign of an internal power struggle and a detrimental decision for the party. This shows that the party leadership is divided, and it is my duty as Center chairman to do everything to keep the party together."

"No convincing arguments for returning the money were presented in the governing board," Ratas wrote. "We contacted the donor and received confirmation that it was an ideological donation to support the Center Party's long-term population and family policies. [Pruunsild] is an entrepreneur who has supported nearly all parliamentary parties and now also those parties that stood for preserving family benefits."

"I proposed to the leadership to accept this donation and initiate the party's supplementary budget process and strengthen the budget with the donation -- fund party chapters, hire development managers in rural areas, distribute the weekly Kesknadal, strengthen the party's office, and repay the debts of the 2023 parliamentary elections at an accelerated pace. The best use of this ideological donation could have been discussed in more detail with the leadership and fellow party members during the supplementary budget process," he said.

Secretary General of the Center Party Andre Hanimagi told BNS that the party is returning the donation because this was the outcome of the vote in the governing board.

"At the vote conducted at the proposal of Mihhail Kolvart, nine members of the governing board were in favor of returning the donation and seven were against with one abstention. We have no doubt that this is an ideological donation made in support of the party's long-lasting family and population policies, and no suspicions were raised in the governing board in this regard. As secretary general, I want to thank the entrepreneur for the ideological donation and point out that, according to the media, two other opposition parties also received donations," Hanimagi said.

"Some members of the governing board, including the party chairman, believed that the donation should be used effectively, accelerating the payment of outstanding bills from the parliamentary elections and strengthening the party's chapters and activities. This proposal was not supported. Only the members of the governing board can say why they did not support it. I do not have an answer to this question. Naturally, today's decision hinders necessary and anticipated developments and decisions," Center's secretary-general added.