Estonia: Centre Party unlikely to recover from exodus of MPs

The parliamentary group of Estonia’s opposition Estonian Centre Party (Keskerakond) will find it hard to recover from the exodus of MPs from the party, ERR’s Uku Toom estimates. The parliamentary group has dwindled from 26 MPs a year ago to just 7 today. The faction is therefore unlikely to have representatives in all parliamentary committees and will receive less state funding, Toom notes. Experts expect the Centre Party to become even more marginalised in Estonian politics, which will show in upcoming European Parliament and municipal elections. The party’s voter base will become more Russian-speaking and Tallinn-centric, political analyst Tõnis Saarts said.

Kristina Kallas, deputy chair of Estonia 200, suggested that the Centre Party could become a “niche party” representing primarily the interests of Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority. Urmas Reinsalu, chairman of the opposition Fatherland (Isamaa) party, also expects the Centre Party to continue turning into a political party of Russian-speaking voters. The former chairman of the Centre Party, MP Jüri Ratas, echoed these assessments. He is still undecided on whether to stay in the party, noting that many people had lost faith that the party could remain relevant in Estonian politics. Ratas said that he would not run for election to the European Parliament on the same list as current Centre Party MEP Yana Toom, who has openly supported pro-Russia activists.