TALLINN - In a letter sent to his fellow party members on Monday, leader of the Center Party Juri Ratas expressed concern over Center's rating and small number of mandates and said that the party's group in the parliament must take on the role of the leader of the opposition and update its program.
"We have to start off strong and take on the role of the leader of the opposition," Ratas said, commenting on the results of the general election. "In party ratings from after the elections, we were ahead of EKRE. It is the Center Party's role to once more be the main power and counterweight to the Reform Party's policies."
Ratas said that the state of play is difficult for Center because the party garnered some 36,000 votes fewer than in the 2019 parliament elections.
"In addition to one's surroundings, one must also take a look in the mirror, and this is what I am actively doing at meetings with my fellow party members in districts," he said.
While Center's 16 mandates are no cause for celebration, it does not mean that the party has been pushed out of competition.
"Three parties achieved similar results at the elections and are, so to speak, on the same footing despite everything we had to deal with," Ratas said, urging caution as careless decisions can irreversibly damage the party's standing. Center will have few financial resources this year and the next, according to Ratas.
The Center Party must continuously prioritize the socioeconomic axis, reduction of poverty and inequality, strong regional policy and its balancing role in matters regarding ethnic groups, he added.
"It is clear today how important our role has been in engaging all people in Estonia and ensuring that the people in Estonia whose mother tongue is Russian are not pushed aside because of Russia's aggression," he said.
Ratas noted that Center needs to define in more detail its goal to stand up for the middle class and its development as well as pay attention to the natural environment, people's mental health, energy, finance and the tax environment. Clear answers are also needed in education, he added.
"We also need to think about the issues and areas that speak to young people. For these reasons, I will convene a working group for updating our program in the near future," Ratas added.
Ratas noted that Center needs to make sense of why it was unable to garner mandates in East-Viru County as well as in primarily Estonian-speaking electoral districts.
"Even though we're trying to bring people together, the ratings show that support to Center is low among speakers of Estonian as first language. The war in Ukraine plays a role in this, but so does Center's image, with regard to which our fellow party members have said that our messages to people who speak a different language as their mother tongue sound like sitting on two chairs at once. We cannot go on like this, it's not sustainable and has to end. We haven't been telling different stories [to different groups], but we need to define more clearly our positions on matters that primarily regard people whose first language is Russian but that are important for both communities."
Center will hold a meeting of its extended board in Tallinn on April 15 to analyze the election results and discuss a way forward.