Curd snack advertisement deemed political

  • 2005-11-30
  • By Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - More than a month after municipal elections, the National Electoral Committee has adopted a resolution that the green curd snack advertisement that had been plastered across the country did resemble the logo of the ruling Center Party and should therefore be regarded as an outdoor political advertisement.
However, the committee stopped short of abrogating the election results on the basis that outdoor political advertising had been banned during the duration of the elections. Committee members said it was impossible to know if the campaign significantly affected the voting results.

"The national electoral committee discussed this for a long time and found that it was not possible to measure its influence on election results. It is difficult to measure how [the curd snack ads] might have influenced the results and whether it was significant," said Mihkel Pilving, head of elections department at the Chancellery of Riigikogu (Estonia's parliament).

The dairy posters were everywhere in Estonia. Kalle Tull, a representative of the Narva city election party Linnakodanik, submitted a complaint and appealed to the Supreme Court against the committee's resolution.

Tull still insisted that Narva's election results should be cancelled.

"There was a big election fraud in Narva that influenced the election results," he told The Baltic Times.

"It was not only the curd snack advertisement. There was an outdoor advertisement on Tallinn's highway, another advertisement in the polling station, four polling stations did not have polling booths and two were without curtains," he explained. "This enabled foremen to inspect the elections, watching the people they had brought to the polling stations, most of whom were antisocial and usually do not participate at the elections. [These people] were driven to the stations by taxi."

"What makes them so active this year?" he asked. "According to some information, they also got paid, but since it was a bilateral agreement, they would not admit it and we can not prove it."

All the violations in Narva were related to the Center Party, Tull claimed. Some Center Party members in Narva are related to the criminal underworld, he added, and the party head even once threatened to take his own life.

Linnakodanik is a party established by entrepreneurs. Although several parties were invited for cooperation, only the Russian party merged. Tull said that he was worried about Parliament's forthcoming elections, since Estonian laws were not enforced in Narva. As a result, people related to criminal syndicates might receive seats in Parliament.

Mihhail Stalnuhhin, a Center Party representative in Narva, said that Tull was using political methods to protect his personal interests in Narva. Tull has downtown real estate that, due to its bad condition, he does not want to sell to investors, Stalnuhhin said.

Meanwhile, the city wants to condemn the building.

"He is ready to lie in order to protect his materialistic interests. Most of us, in an analogous situation, would use all tools to protect their possession that does not appeal to the city," said Stalnuhhin, who will head the town council.

Complaints have been sent to the electoral committee regarding Res Publica, a right-wing party, after the latter was caught buying votes, Stalnuhhin said. The polling stations' missing curtains and cabins were not Center Party's fault, he added.

As for election results, Tull was not the first to complain. The Electoral Committee's Web site contains a list of complaints.

The Center Party ended up winning the elections in Tallinn, garnering an astounding 41 percent of the vote in the capital. The party now controls 32 of 63 seats on the City Council.

The Center Party, the firm that produced the K-Kohuke curd snack and the Idea AD advertisement agency have so far denied that the curd snack campaign was political.

"The Center Party is in no way related to the advertisements; it has not ordered it and hasn't paid for it. It is an advertisement of a dairy product," said Toomas Raag, spokesman for the Center Party.

Mark Eikner, head of Idea AD, said that the dairy snack still exists, and its sales improved after the campaign. "The Center Party is not the sole owner of the letter K and the green color. These have been used before and will be in the future," said Eikner.

Now that a resolution on the so-called K-Kohuke outdoor advertising has been adopted, Parliament's anti-corruption committee is demanding that the Center Party include advertising expenses in its election campaign report. The committee is also asking that the party clarify five orders in the amount of 2.56 million kroons (163,000 euros) given to Idea AD.