Estonian politicians will participate in a U.S-style presidential television debate ahead of the upcoming general elections. However the debate has already been labeled a farce, as the participating candidates have purchased the air time with their campaign funds, and one of the main political parties has not been invited to take part.
The debate will take place on TV3 over three successive Thursdays between Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Center Party, and Mart Laar, leader of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, known as IRL.
Both parties bought the timeslots from TV3, splitting the costs. Andrus Ansip, the leader of the governing Reform Party, was not asked to attend.
Kadri Must, secretary-general of the Center Party, denied the debate was merely a form of advertising to push their election platforms.
She said the idea of the privately funded debate had come from IRL.
"The reason for the series of debates is that there are too few substantial debates in the electoral campaign," Must said.
The public television channel Eesti Television will also host an on-air debate in which leaders of all seven political parties will take part.
Must said that the political parties decided to hold their own private debate because they wanted a worthy opponent.
Reform Party secretary-general Kristen Michal said it was quite understandable why IRL and the Center Party had bought time for the debates.
"The Center Party is looking for a weaker partner and has found one. Besides, Savisaar's inferior form would clearly show Ansip. IRL, which is going to the elections with considerably lower support, is prepared to do anything and with anyone in order to get into the picture," Michal said.