TALLINN - The governing board of the Center Party concluded last week that the roundtable of five political parties searching for a common presidential candidate should take a time-out due to the current merger between two opposition parties. The Center Party made a proposal to hold the next round of talks after the merger of the right-wing Pro Patria Union and Res Publica parties has been completed, probably at the beginning of July, with third and fourth rounds at the beginning of August. The Center Party said it could not agree on a "merging party" having two votes in the process of choosing the presidential candidate, which contradicts both the spirit and principles of the roundtable.
The board of the Center Party considers it necessary that, in the next round of voting, Pro Patria Union and Res Publica would be represented by a common delegation.
The Center Party further said there had been reports that the other four parties were first making decisions among themselves and only then meeting with the Center. "The Center Party cannot consent to actions whereby solutions are forced upon it calling it a compromise," the party said.
The board of Pro Patria Union expressed hope that a joint candidate of the five parties would be found before Midsummer's Day, while the Center Party expressed its wish for a transparent and public roundtable process. The latter also said it hoped to take part in all meetings where the respective topics are discussed.
The board nevertheless recognized that parties are moving closer to each other, adding that the Center Party hopes this process, which began in Parliament in connection with the upcoming presidential vote, will continue.
The party said it hopes that Parliament will be able to elect the next president.
Commenting on the Center Party's statement, leader of the Pro Patria Union Tonis Lukas and Res Publica leader Taavi Veskimagi said the Center seemed to be making preparations to leave the roundtable through the back door. Lukas said this was particularly evident in the Center Party's allegations that the four other parties were meeting "behind its back."
Lukas dismissed the Center's criticism of the Pro Patria Union and Res Publica's keeping their separate votes in the process of selecting the joint candidate. He said the new party will be born only when it makes the register, and thus there are two different parties and parliamentary factions taking part in the process of choosing the president.
The Pro Patria Union leader said it would be a pity if the Center Party left the effort to choose a joint candidate for this fall's presidential election, since the effort emerged as the most pleasant example of cooperation between parties of late.
Res Publica's Veskimagi said the statement indicates unwillingness on the part of the Center Party to agree on a joint presidential candidate.
"If we also look at the process of municipal leaders' joining the Center Party, which has sped up lately on the back of various promises for funding from the state budget, it becomes more and more evident that the Center Party is playing a double game, and its actual goal is to take the election of the president to an electoral college instead of having the president elected in parliament," Veskimagi said.
Res Publica said it would propose at a May 17 meeting to decide by Midsummer whether the five parties can realistically agree on a common candidate and get the necessary 68 votes in Parliament.
"We wish to have clarity on whether this process is real or whether some party simply wants to earn extra attention for its candidates by playing a double game. In that case, the fooling of both our honorable candidates and the public should be ended as quickly as possible," Veskimagi said, adding that Res Publica was still interested in having a common candidate of five of the six parties represented in Parliament.
Representative of the five parties 's all parties of the opposition as well as the Reform and Center parties from the ruling three-party coalition 's were due to gather on May 17 to decide about the date of the next round of negotiations.