Tallinn Mayor Juri Ratas slipped past a vote of no-confidence on March 29, as the 27 votes against him failed to reach majority. The opposition initiated the move after it was revealed that the city had bought properties in Tallinn's Old Town at double the market price.
Twenty-seven deputies backed the motion of no-confidence against Ratas. However, a majority of 32 votes in the 63-seat chamber would have been needed to bring down the mayor.The motion was signed by 30 members from the Reform Party, Pro Patria Union, Social Democratic Party, People's Union and Res Publica, and handed in on March 23. The parties said it was impermissible that the city was buying property on Harju Street at double the market price.
"Mayor Ratas, who has fervently defended the Harju Street deal, is directly responsible for such irresponsible squandering of the taxpayers' money," the opposition said. According to a real-estate expert, as of Jan. 20, the market property value on Harju Street was 74.8 million kroons (4.78 million euros). On that same day, the city government offered to buy the properties from private owners for 150 million kroons, the opposition said.
Ratas has dismissed the accusations, saying they were little more than an attempt by the opposition to steal the media spotlight. Scandal erupted on March 28 as the Center Party accused a Res Publica deputy of offering a Centrist city council member one million kroons to vote in favor of the no-confidence motion. According to the Center Party, the deputy offered the bribe had taped the entire conversation.
In response, the opposition parties jointly alleged that the Center Party had arranged both the meeting and the secret recording in an effort to compromise the opposition. The tape recordings have not yet been publicized.