New right-wing party hopes to muster support

  • 2001-11-22
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Res Publica, a right-wing political organization founded in 1988, is planning to register as a new political party Dec. 8.

Res Publica's youthful secretary general, Ken-Marti Vaher, 27, who holds a law degree from Tartu University and has headed the State Audit Office and also worked in the Parliament as the constitutional commission's adviser, wants to pump up membership of the new party over the next year.

"We want to unify at least 1,500 members by the end of this year. Those people will be the kernel of the party, whose numbers we would like to double in the next year," said Vaher.

Other key figures in the organization are also young Tartu University graduates with either previous or current public service experience.

According to the law on political organizations, a party should have at least 1,000 members to be officially registered. Res Publica says it met that limit in October.

But Eero Tohver, the secretary general of the Reform Party, says it will be hard to predict Res Publica's success when it is not clear yet who will head the party and who will be its other leaders.

"One can promise a lot. Let's see what they'll actually do. I think that democracy in Estonia is already relatively formed, so it's hard to create a new party," said Tohver.

The Estonian media have pegged professor Rein Taagepera, who holds a Ph.D. in physics and divides his time between the United States and Estonia, as the prime candidate to head the new party.

Good leadership is no guarantee of success for the new party, however.

The Conservative Club, another conservative, nationalistic political organization founded in 1999 tried to break through into the Estonian political scene during the last elections but found the waters difficult to navigate. The club's Matti Pats, grandson of Estonia's first President Konstantin Pats, lost his bid for the presidency.

Mart Helme, the ex-ambassador to Russia, is still hoping to set up another political party centered around the Conservative Club.

But Res Publica thinks it has the members to pull off reforming as a political party and joining the other 12 parties in the Estonian political arena.

"First, there are no unimportant life spheres for us. The new party is open for anyone regardless of income, social position or residence. The new party is a service organization, whose clients are party members, electorate and sponsors," says the statement.

The organization lists several prominent professionals in different fields - Ralf Allikvee, Tallinn Mustmae hospital's chief doctor, and Arvi Altmae, rector of Tallinn Techical University - as members.

A number of local government heads from across Estonia have also joined Res Pulbica.

Leho Karjus, Pro Patria's secretary general, said Res Publica has not addressed Pro Patria officially regarding any possible partnership. "But we are open for cooperation if their political standpoints are close to ours," said Karjus.

"We have already witnessed births of new parties that manage to attract people in the very beginning. But to position themselves in the best way, a party should clearly declare its political platform," said Karjus, adding an old Estonian proverb which says, "everything that's new is interesting at first."