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AGREEABLE CHAPS: Indrek Tarand (left) and Toomas Hendrik Ilves have similar gripes about stalled reforms.
TALLINN - Estonian presidential candidates Indrek Tarand and Toomas Hendrik Ilves criticized in their first pre-election debate the incomplete administrative reform in the country, reports National Broadcasting. President Ilves said that Estonia’s administrative reform has stalled. “The problem is not just in too small parishes, something more major is wrong. We do not have just small parishes, but also too big parishes that do not observe financial mechanisms,” said Ilves.
Referring to the city of Tallinn, Ilves explained that at present, the State Audit Office can, in big cities, only look at how effectively money has been used, but cannot look at corruption levels. “No one is speaking about how a street in Tallinn looks like a Siberian village in winter as well as in summer, but at the same time money is found to make broadcasts on Tallinn television,” said Ilves.
Tarand agreed with Ilves and said that he is fighting against the unjust use of money by large municipalities. “No fight is hopeless, but this is as difficult a fight as the fight with Soviet Estonian heritage,” he said.
He said that while earlier the problems could have been in a lack of skills, in the 2000s the factor that has hampered implementing administrative reform was that parties kind of have privatized local municipalities. “There are endless stories about how a person has to be from one or another party to get support to some projects and get them done,” he said.
While Tarand and Ilves did not voice vastly different opinions on many matters, one topic the candidates have different views is the presidential election system: while Tarand supports adopting the system of direct presidential elections in Estonia, Ilves said at the debate that he supports the current system, where the parliament elects the president. “In the end, the people elect, but the powers of the president will not change,” said Ilves.
Ilves and Tarand also discussed foreign political matters and both find that Estonia should definitely participate in EU aid packages.