Estonian Centre Party

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Estonian Centre Party
Eesti Keskerakond
Leader Edgar Savisaar
Founded 12 October 1991
Preceded by Popular Front of Estonia
Headquarters Toom-Rüütli 3/5
Tallinn 10130
Membership  (2014) 14,280
Ideology Centrism[1][2]
Social liberalism[1]
Populism[3][4][5]
Political position Centre-left[6][7]
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Green
Riigikogu
21 / 101
European Parliament
0 / 6
Website
http://www.keskerakond.ee/
Politics of Estonia
Political parties
Elections

The Estonian Centre Party (Estonian: Eesti Keskerakond) is a centrist[8] and social-liberal[9] political party in Estonia. The Centre Party is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). It has the largest membership of an Estonian political party, with over 14,000 members.[citation needed] It is often considered as personalist due to the strong influence of its chairman Edgar Savisaar. Vice chairmen of the party are Kadri Simson and Enn Eesmaa.

The party was founded on 12 October 1991 from the basis of the Popular Front of Estonia after several parties split from it. At that time, the party was called People's Centre Party (Rahvakeskerakond) in order to differentiate from the smaller Rural Centre Party (Maa-Keskerakond).

The Centre Party has become by far the most popular party among Russians in Estonia, being supported by up to 75% of ethnic non-Estonians.[10]

Ideology[edit]

The party claims that its goal is the formation of a strong middle class in Estonia. The Centre Party declares itself as "middle class liberal party"; however, against the backdrop of Estonia's economic liberal policies, the Centre Party has a reputation of having more left-leaning policies. The party holds positions considered contrary to social liberalism on a number of issues. For example, the party suggests that Estonia should deliberate re-establishing criminal punishments for the possession of even small amounts of illegal substances.[11] Nor could Centre Party's parliamentary faction agree on its stance in regards to same-sex marriage,[12] which is traditionally supported by social liberals. In an Estonian Public Broadcasting program 'Foorum', Estonian Reform Party parliamentarian Remo Holsmer listed the ideologies of other three political parties represented in the Parliament, but could not name the ideological position of the Centre Party. Centre Party parliamentarian Kadri Simson then helped to clarify that the ideology of the Centre Party is "Centre Party".[13]

The party is ofted described as populist[3][4][5] and critics have accused its long-term leader Edgar Savisaar of authoritarianism.[14]

History[edit]

In the parliamentary elections of March 1995, the Centre Party was placed third with 14.2% of votes and 16 seats. It entered the coalition, Savisaar taking the position of the Minister of Internal Affairs, and 4 other ministerial positions (Social Affairs, Economy, Education and Transportation& Communications). After the "tape scandal" (secret taping of talks with other politicians) where Savisaar was involved, the party was forced to go to opposition. A new party was formed by those who were disappointed by their leader's behaviour. Edgar Savisaar became the Chairman of the City Council of the capital city Tallinn.

In 1996, CPE candidate Siiri Oviir ran for the presidency of Estonia.

In the parliamentary elections of March 1999, the Centre Party, whose main slogan was progressive income tax, gained 23.4% of votes (the first result) and 28 seats in the Riigikogu. CPE members are active in its 26 branches – eight of them are active in Tallinn, 18 in towns and counties.

The Centre Party became a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (then known as the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party) at the organisation's July 2003 London Congress. The party also applied for the membership of the Liberal International (LI) in 2001, but the LI decided to reject the party's application in August 2001, as Savisaar's conduct was adjudged to 'not always conform to liberal principles'.[15]

In 2001, Kreitzberg unsuccessfully ran for the presidency of Estonia.

Savisaar was the Mayor of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, from 2001 to fall 2004, when he was forced to step down after a vote of no confidence. He was replaced by Tõnis Palts of Res Publica.

In January 2002, the Centre Party and the Estonian Reform Party formed a new governmental coalition where Centre Party got 8 ministerial seats (Minister of Defense, Education, Social Affairs, Finances, Economy & Communications, Interior, Agriculture and Minister of integration and national minorities). The coalition stayed until the new elections in 2003, in which the party won 28 seats. Though the Centre Party won the greatest percent of votes, it was in opposition until March, 2005 when Juhan Parts' government collapsed.

In 2003, the majority of the party's assembly did not support Estonia's joining the European Union (EU). Savisaar did not express clearly his position.

A number of Centre Party members exited the party in autumn 2004, mostly due to objections with Savisaar's autocratic tendencies and the party's EU-sceptic stance, forming the Social Liberal group. Some of them joined the Social Democratic Party, others the Reform Party and others the People's Party. One of these MPs later rejoined the Centre Party. Since Estonia's accession to the EU, the party has largely revised its formerly EU-sceptic positions.[7]

In 2004 the Centre Party gained one member in the European ParliamentSiiri Oviir. The Centre Party gathered 17.5% share of votes on the elections to the European Parliament. Oviir joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group.

The Centre Party participated in government with the Estonian Reform Party and the People's Union of Estonia from 12 April 2005 until a new government took office after the March 2007 elections. The Centre Party had 5 minister portfolios (Edgar Savisaar as Minister of Economy, also Minister of Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Interior).

Local elections on 16 October 2005 were very successful to the Centre Party. Keskerakond managed to win 32 seats out of 63 in Tallinn City Council, having now an absolute majority in that municipality. One of the factors behind this success in Tallinn was probably the immense popularity of Centre Party among Russian speaking voters. The controversial contract of co-operation between the Estonian Centre Party and the Russia's dominant political party of power United Russia has probably contributed to the success in ethnic Russian electorate as well.

Centre Party formed one-party government in Tallinn was led by Jüri Ratas, a 27 year old politician elected the Mayor of Tallinn in November 2005. He was replaced by Savisaar in April 2007.[16] The Centre Party is also a member of coalitions in 15 other major towns of Estonia like Pärnu, Narva, Haapsalu and Tartu.

In the 2007 Estonian parliamentary election, the party received 143,528 votes (26.1% of the total), an improvement of +0.7%. They took 29 seats, a gain of one seat compared to the 2003 elections, though due to the 2004 defections which had decreased their strength, they actually gained 10 seats. They are now the second largest party in Parliament and the largest opposition party. IEight Top-Ranking Members to Leave Centre Party (1) n 2008, the party criticised Andrus Ansip's policies, that in Centre Party's opinion have contributed to Estonia's economic problems of recent times. On June 16, 2007, Edgar Savisaar and Jaan Õmblus published a proposal of how to improve what they regard as Estonia's economic crisis.[17]

In the European Parliament elections of 2009, the Centre Party gained the most votes and 2 out of 6 Estonian seats, which were filled by Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar.

In local elections of 2009, the party strengthened its absolute majority in the Tallinn city council. Despite their absolute majority, they formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party. Recent polls suggest the party is especially popular amongst Estonia's Russophone minority.[18]

On 9 April 2012 eight prominent Centre Party members decided to leave the party citing frustration of their attempts to bring openness and transparency into party leadership. Previously MP Kalle Laanet was expelled on 21 March for his criticism of the party leadership. The leaving politicians included MEPs Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, MPs Inara Luigas, Lembit Kaljuvee, Deniss Boroditš and Rainer Vakra, and also Ain Seppik, Toomas Varek.[19]

In the local elections of 20 October 2013, the Center Party and his leader Edgar Savisaar reported an extraordinary result getting the absolute majority in the city of Tallinn obteining 53% of votes : 46 seats out of 79 (2 more than 2009 results), far over the second party Erakond Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit that took 19% of votes: 16 seats.[20] The administration of the capital city in the past years was clearly appreciated by citizens (particularly the introduction of free public transportation for all Tallinn residents).[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  2. ^ Plakans, Andrejs (2011), A Concise History of the Baltic States, Cambridge University Press, p. 424 
  3. ^ a b Bugajski, Janusz; Teleki, Ilona (2007), Atlantic Bridges: America's New European Allies, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 192 
  4. ^ a b Huang, Mel (2005), "Estonia", Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands and Culture (ABC-CLIO): 89 
  5. ^ a b "Estonian Centre Party", A Political and Economic Dictionary of Eastern Europe (First ed.) (Cambridge International Reference on Current Affairs), 2002: 201 
  6. ^ Castanheira, Micael; Nicodème, Gaëtan; Profeta, Paola (2010), "On the Political Economics of Taxation", Public choice e political economy (FrancoAngeli): 94 
  7. ^ a b Sikk, Allan (2011), "The Case of Estonia", Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe: Does EU membership matter? (Routledge): 60 
  8. ^ World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish. 2010. pp. 1060–. ISBN 978-0-7614-7896-6. 
  9. ^ Elisabeth Bakke (2010). "Central and East European party systems since 1989". Central and Southeast European Politics since 1989 (Cambridge University Press). p. 79. ISBN 978-1-139-48750-4. 
  10. ^ Keskerakond on mitte-eestlaste seas jätkuvalt populaarseim partei, Postimees, 23 September 2012
  11. ^ Yana Toom: narkomaane peab karmimalt karistama. Arvamus. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Merje Pors. Keskerakond ei jõua partnerlusseaduse osas kokkuleppele. Postimees. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Simson, Kadri (2012-05-23). Foorum (Motion picture) (in Estoninan). Tallinn, Estonia: Estonian Public Broadcasting. Event occurs at 21:47. 
  14. ^ Jeffries, Ian (2004), The Countries of the Former Soviet Union at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: The Baltic and European states in transition, Routledge, p. 141 
  15. ^ Day, Alan John (2002). Political parties of the world. London: John Harper. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-9536278-7-5. 
  16. ^ "Article". baltictimes.com. 
  17. ^ "Keskerakond". 
  18. ^ Keskerakond on jätkuvalt muulaste seas populaarseim erakond - Eesti uudised. Postimees. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Sivonen, Erkki (9 April 2012). "Eight Top-Ranking Members to Leave Centre Party". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Valimistulemused". Delphi.ee. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "Lowering emissions through sustainable transport solutions". 15 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 

External links[edit]