TALLINN - Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said at a June 7 meeting between the four parties represented in the Riigikogu that the Reform Party’s recent internal elections scandal has exceeded all limits of tolerance, reports Public Broadcasting. Ilves stressed that the Reform Party’s internal scandal opens the doors for others to undermine the trustworthiness of “the whole elections system, and harms the reputation of Estonia.”
“I am glad that this time an investigation of the circumstances, and punishment of the culprits, has been done quickly,” said Ilves.
He stressed that the internal elections of one
party and Estonia’s e-elections are, technically, two different things. “In this
case, only one’s own party and party members were cheated upon; we could say
that others didn’t suffer,” Ilves said. He also noted that many people would
want him to simply just condemn the Reform Party, to brush the matter under the
rug, but that would be the “easy way out.”
“One could say that this is an internal problem of one party: maybe it will draw attention away from us and everything will pass. I don’t think it will pass. We have to learn from the event and come out of the problem cleaner than before,” said Ilves.
Vote rigging scandal
President Ilves announced last week the convening of the chairmen of Estonian parties - those which are represented in the parliament - at the Kadriorg Palace for a meeting to discuss the domestic political situation. This meeting was spurred on by the recent scandal where the manipulation of the votes had taken place in the May elections of the Reform Party’s board.
On June 5 the Reform Party board expelled
veteran politician and MEP Kristiina Ojuland from the party, accusing her of
being involved in manipulating votes to get elected to the board. Ojuland has
denied any wrongdoing.
The party’s Laane-Virumaa county organization development manager Taimi Samblik, who admitted to manipulating the votes, resigned before she could be expelled. Last Friday, the Viljandimaa county organization development manager of the Reform Party Ott Kukk also resigned from his job, as well for casting votes in someone else’s name in the party’s internal elections.
Ojuland said after the party board meeting that she was disappointed by the board decision and specified that the reason for her being expelled was harming the reputation of the party. Ojuland, who has denied involvement in cheating with the votes, said that she hasn’t yet decided upon turning to the court to clear her name, but said she would be consulting with lawyers.
Speaking on ERR radio, Tallinn Mayor and head
of the opposition Center Party Edgar Savisaar said he believed that the
situation is not a sweeping crisis of political culture, but a crisis of the
“Ratings are down for the ruling parties, not the opposition. That means the public wants to see the government switched out and political change,” Savisaar said.
The head of the working group formed for the investigation, Reform Party MP Vaino Linde, told Postimees that the materials and testimonies they had collected confirmed the suspicions that Samblik, European Parliament member Ojuland and Laane-Viru County Governor Einar Vallbaum were connected to the voting fraud that was committed in the elections of the party board in May, as well as in another scandal in 2011.
Ojuland admitted that she had paid party
membership fees for 39 people, which gave them the right to participate in the
party board elections, but denied wrongdoing. Samblik admitted that she voted
for other people, claiming that she did so on the orders of Ojuland, which
Ojuland claimed was a lie.
Samblik has also claimed that Ojuland and Vallbaum recently approached her, offering her a year’s salary and a month-long trip to Tenerife to wait for the scandal to blow over, in return for taking the blame wholly on herself.
Vallbaum has denied any involvement in the matter.
The court of honor of the party said it did not have reason to doubt the legitimacy of May election’s results, reports err.ee. The party said damage had been done to the reputation of Estonia’s pioneering e-election system, although the party’s internal voting system is completely separate, allowing members to log in even through Facebook.
Prime minister gives warning
Estonian Prime Minister and Reform Party chairman Andrus Ansip confirmed on June 7 in an interview with national radio that manipulation of votes had taken place in the elections of the party board. He said earlier, on May 31, in a similar interview that there was a confession from a party member about manipulating votes at the elections of the party board. “The secretary general of the party has a written explanation from one specific person where the person admits to committing these acts. And the person refers to having done it at someone else’s will and knowledge,” said Ansip.
The prime minister was initially unwilling to reveal the person’s name, since the party had formed a commission to investigate the affair.
He added that he knew of over 30 suspicious
votes which correspond to the same pattern which can refer to use of a false
Eesti Ekspress wrote on May 30 that in the Laane-Virumaa county in north east Estonia, several elderly pensioners joined the Reform Party a few days before the elections of the party board in 2011, who later participated in the board’s elections via the Internet without knowing about it.