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Savisaar conquers Tallinn

  • 2001-12-20
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - As soon as the new Center Party/Reform Party city council coalition formed last week successfully carried out a vote of no-confidence against Tallinn Mayor Tonis Palts, Edgar Savisaar, leader of the opposition Center Party, took over the post.

After three years of cooperation with the Pro Patria Union and the Moderates, the Reform Party decided to make a new pact with the Center Party in order to prevent the approval of next year's city budget, which includes a 1.5 billion kroon ($86.45 million) loan.

The coalition's demise prompted Prime Minister Mart Laar to speak out about the possible collapse of the coalition at the national level.

On Dec. 13, in a city council session hall packed with reporters, the new power bloc successfully took over the posts of mayor and council chair.

Aimar Altosaar, head of the coalition committee of Tallinn City Council and Pro Patria Union member, started the session saying that Christmas was looming and it was the wrong time to carry out a no-confidence motion.

"I suggest suspending the motion," he said shortly before voting got underway. The council members, driven by Center Party members, insisted the vote go ahead.

Palts, in a short speech before the no-confidence vote, reminded the audience of what he said on June 6, 2001, when he was elected mayor.

"I told the audience then that I would try to work properly so my son, Tonis Palts Jr., would never feel ashamed of his father. And I really think I have worked that way," said Palts.

"I hope Tallinn City Council will someday get rid of this annoying political habit of attempting to change mayors every six months."

After just one minute, 38 council members supported the no-confidence motion with their votes - five stood against it and 20 did not take part in the voting.

"If I'm not elected back today, I invite every council member to celebrate my leaving. But I also call for you to vote against the motion," said Palts, provoking gentle laughter in the room.

Savisaar, the only candidate proposed for the mayoral post, received 34 of the 64 votes. Maret Maripuu, head of the Reform Party faction in the city council, was elected to chair the council.

Altosaar said Pro Patria would not try to carry out no-confidence motions against the newly elected Savisaar and Maripuu. "We've witnessed what kinds of things happen here, and we aren't going to follow that tradition (of frequent no-confidence motions). We'll let the Center and Reform parties work peacefully."

Altosaar once again voiced an idea that originally came from Moderates leader and foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, saying that now you have to look three times into the eyes of a Reform Party member to make sure there will be no tricks.

Laar and Ilves told the Postimees daily newspaper that many European politicians were surprised that Savisaar, who as minister of the interior in 1995 secretly taped telephone conversations, could become the mayor of Estonia's capital. Savisaar was forced to resign, and the government the Center Party led collapsed.

Kullo Arjakas from the Center Party's parliamentary faction said that the tape scandal brought shame to Centrists. "And our rivals will probably remind us about it for the next seven years," he said.

Both Savisaar and Maripuu said in a briefing after the session they intended to shave money off a 1.5 billion loan project Palts was actively promoting for the capital. The new power bloc will probably decrease the number of planned renovations next year, they said.

"Tallinn isn't just a business enterprise, it's also a home. The loan (suggested by Palts) would put the whole country in debt for years," said Maripuu.