Estonian Centre Party

The Estonian Centre Party (Estonian: Eesti Keskerakond) is a centrist,[3][10] social-liberal,[3][4][5] and populist[6][7][8] political party in Estonia. It is one of the two largest political parties in Estonia and currently has 27 seats in the Estonian Parliament. The Party is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

The party was founded on 12 October 1991 from the basis of the Popular Front of Estonia after several parties split from it. At that time, the party was called People's Centre Party (Rahvakeskerakond) in order to differentiate from the smaller centre-right Rural Centre Party (Maa-Keskerakond).

The Centre Party chairman from 5 November 2016 is Jüri Ratas.[13]

The Centre Party has become by far the most popular party among Russians in Estonia, being supported by up to 75% of ethnic non-Estonians.[14]

Estonian Centre Party

Eesti Keskerakond
LeaderJüri Ratas
Founded12 October 1991
Preceded byPopular Front of Estonia
HeadquartersNarva mnt. 31-M1
Tallinn 10120
Membership (2019)Increase 14,934[1]
Social liberalism[3][4][5]
Social market economy[9]
Russian minority politics[5]
Political positionCentre[3][10] to centre-left[11][12]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Parliament groupAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours     Green
25 / 101
European Parliament
1 / 6


In the parliamentary elections of March 1995, the Centre Party was placed third with 14.2% of votes and 16 seats. It entered the coalition, Savisaar taking the position of the Minister of Internal Affairs, and 4 other ministerial positions (Social Affairs, Economy, Education and Transportation& Communications). After the "tape scandal" (secret taping of talks with other politicians) where Savisaar was involved, the party was forced to go to opposition. A new party was formed by those who were disappointed by their leader's behaviour. Edgar Savisaar became the Chairman of the City Council of the capital city Tallinn.

In 1996, CPE candidate Siiri Oviir ran for the presidency of Estonia.

In the parliamentary elections of March 1999, the Centre Party, whose main slogan was progressive income tax, gained 23.4% of votes (the first result) and 28 seats in the Riigikogu. CPE members are active in its 26 branches – eight of them are active in Tallinn, 18 in towns and counties.

The Centre Party became a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (then known as the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party) at the organisation's July 2003 London Congress. The party also applied for the membership of the Liberal International (LI) in 2001, but the LI decided to reject the party's application in August 2001, as Savisaar's conduct was adjudged to 'not always conform to liberal principles'.[15]

In 2001, Kreitzberg unsuccessfully ran for the presidency of Estonia.

Savisaar was the Mayor of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, from 2001 to fall 2004, when he was forced to step down after a vote of no confidence. He was replaced by Tõnis Palts of Res Publica.

In January 2002, the Centre Party and the Estonian Reform Party formed a new governmental coalition where Centre Party got 8 ministerial seats (Minister of Defense, Education, Social Affairs, Finances, Economy & Communications, Interior, Agriculture and Minister of integration and national minorities). The coalition stayed until the new elections in 2003, in which the party won 28 seats. Though the Centre Party won the greatest percent of votes, it was in opposition until March, 2005 when Juhan Parts' government collapsed.

In 2003, the majority of the party's assembly did not support Estonia's joining the European Union (EU). Savisaar did not express clearly his position.

A number of Centre Party members exited the party in autumn 2004, mostly due to objections with Savisaar's autocratic tendencies and the party's EU-sceptic stance, forming the Social Liberal group. Some of them joined the Social Democratic Party, others the Reform Party and others the People's Party. One of these MPs later rejoined the Centre Party. Since Estonia's accession to the EU, the party has largely revised its formerly EU-sceptic positions.[12]

In 2004 the Centre Party gained one member in the European ParliamentSiiri Oviir. The Centre Party gathered 17.5% share of votes on the elections to the European Parliament. Oviir joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group.

The Centre Party participated in government with the Estonian Reform Party and the People's Union of Estonia from 12 April 2005 until a new government took office after the March 2007 elections. The Centre Party had 5 minister portfolios (Edgar Savisaar as Minister of Economy, also Minister of Social Affairs, Education, Culture and Interior).

Local elections on 16 October 2005 were very successful to the Centre Party. It managed to win 32 seats out of 63 in Tallinn City Council, having now an absolute majority in that municipality. One of the factors behind this success in Tallinn was probably the immense popularity of Centre Party among Russian speaking voters. The controversial contract of co-operation between the Estonian Centre Party and the Russia's dominant political party of power United Russia has probably contributed to the success in ethnic Russian electorate as well.

Centre Party formed one-party government in Tallinn led by Jüri Ratas, a 27-year-old politician elected the Mayor of Tallinn in November 2005. He was replaced by Savisaar in April 2007.[16] The Centre Party is also a member of coalitions in 15 other major towns of Estonia like Pärnu, Narva, Haapsalu and Tartu.

In the 2007 Estonian parliamentary election, the party received 143,528 votes (26.1% of the total), an improvement of +0.7%. They took 29 seats, a gain of one seat compared to the 2003 elections, though due to the 2004 defections which had decreased their strength, they actually gained 10 seats. They are now the second largest party in Parliament and the largest opposition party. In 2008, the party criticised Andrus Ansip's policies, that in Centre Party's opinion have contributed to Estonia's economic problems of recent times. On June 16, 2007, Edgar Savisaar and Jaan Õmblus published a proposal of how to improve what they regard as Estonia's economic crisis.[17]

In the European Parliament elections of 2009, the Centre Party gained the most votes and 2 out of 6 Estonian seats, which were filled by Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar.

In local elections of 2009, the party strengthened its absolute majority in the Tallinn city council. Despite their absolute majority, they formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party. Recent polls suggest the party is especially popular amongst Estonia's Russophone minority.[18]

On 9 April 2012 eight prominent Centre Party members decided to leave the party citing frustration of their attempts to bring openness and transparency into party leadership. Previously MP Kalle Laanet was expelled on 21 March for his criticism of the party leadership. The leaving politicians included MEPs Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, MPs Inara Luigas, Lembit Kaljuvee, Deniss Boroditš and Rainer Vakra, and also Ain Seppik, Toomas Varek.[19]

In the local elections of 20 October 2013, the Center Party and its leader Edgar Savisaar were successful, obtaining the absolute majority in the city of Tallinn with 53% of votes, winning 46 seats out of 79 (2 more than the 2009 results), considerably more than the second party, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, which received 19% of votes and 16 seats.[20]

The Estonian Centre Party obtained a good result in the 2015 election, obtaining 24.8% of votes and electing 27 MPs. The party remained in opposition to the new government if Taavi Rõivas, which was supported by the Estonian Reform Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

In Autumn 2016 Savisaar stepped down as party leader and Jüri Ratas was elected in his place.

In November 2016 the Social Democratic Party and the Pro Patria Union withdrew from the government coalition and entered a no-confidence motion against the government, together with the Estonian Centre Party. On 9 November 2016 the Riigikogu approved the motion with a 63-28 vote and Rõivas was forced to resign; in a following coalition talk, the Centre Party, SDE and IRL formed a new coalition led by Center Party's chairman Jüri Ratas. The new government was sworn in on 23 November.[21][22]


The party claims that its goal is the formation of a strong middle class in Estonia. The Centre Party declares itself as a "middle class liberal party"; however, against the backdrop of Estonia's economically liberal policies, the Centre Party has a reputation of having more left-leaning policies. This is despite the fact that the party holds positions considered contrary to social liberalism on a number of issues. For example, the party suggests that Estonia should deliberate re-establishing criminal punishments for the possession of even small amounts of illegal substances.[23] Nor could Centre Party's parliamentary faction agree on its stance in regards to same-sex marriage,[24] which is traditionally supported by social liberals. In an Estonian Public Broadcasting program 'Foorum', Estonian Reform Party parliamentarian Remo Holsmer listed the ideologies of other three political parties represented in the Parliament, but could not name the ideological position of the Centre Party. Centre Party parliamentarian Kadri Simson then tried to clarify that the ideology of the Centre Party is "Centre Party," meaning a unique ideology independent of other established ones.[25]

The party is ofted described as populist[6][7][8] and critics had accused its long-time leader Edgar Savisaar of authoritarianism until a new leader was elected in 2016.[26]

Electoral performance

Election Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1992 56,124 12.2
15 / 101
Increase 15 Increase 3rd Opposition
1995 76,634 14.2
16 / 101
Decrease 3 Steady 2nd Coalition
1999 113,378 23.4
28 / 101
Increase 12 Increase 1st Opposition
2003 125,709 25.4
28 / 101
Steady 0 Steady 1st Opposition
2007 143,518 26.1
29 / 101
Increase 1 Decrease 2nd Opposition
2011 134,124 23.3
26 / 101
Decrease 3 Steady 2nd Opposition
2015 142,442 24.8
27 / 101
Increase1 Steady 2nd Coalition (2016–)


  1. ^ "The list of the members: Eesti Keskerakond". e-business register. Retrieved 1 Jan 2019.
  2. ^ "Estonian Centre Party Faction". Riigikogu. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Nordsieck, Wolfram (2015). "Estonia". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  4. ^ a b World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish. 2010. p. 1060. ISBN 978-0-7614-7896-6.
  5. ^ a b c Elisabeth Bakke (2010). "Central and East European party systems since 1989". In Sabrina P. Ramet. Central and East European party systems since 1989. Central and Southeast European Politics since 1989. Cambridge University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-139-48750-4.
  6. ^ a b c Bugajski, Janusz; Teleki, Ilona (2007), Atlantic Bridges: America's New European Allies, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 192
  7. ^ a b c Huang, Mel (2005), "Estonia", Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands and Culture, ABC-CLIO, p. 89
  8. ^ a b c "Estonian Centre Party", A Political and Economic Dictionary of Eastern Europe (First ed.), Cambridge International Reference on Current Affairs, p. 201, 2002
  9. ^ Olesk, Peeter (19 July 2017). "Mis on Keskerakonna ideoloogia?" [What is Centre Party's ideology?] (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  10. ^ a b Andrejs Plakans (2011), A Concise History of the Baltic States, Cambridge University Press, p. 424
  11. ^ Micael Castanheira; Gaëtan Nicodème; Paola Profeta (2010), "On the Political Economics of Taxation", Public choice e political economy, FrancoAngeli, p. 94
  12. ^ a b Allan Sikk (2011), "The Case of Estonia", Party Politics in Central and Eastern Europe: Does EU membership matter?, Routledge, p. 60
  13. ^ [1], Postimees, 5 November 2016
  14. ^ Keskerakond on mitte-eestlaste seas jätkuvalt populaarseim partei, Postimees, 23 September 2012
  15. ^ Day, Alan John (2002). Political parties of the world. London: John Harper. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-9536278-7-5.
  16. ^ "Article".
  17. ^ "Keskerakond". Archived from the original on 2008-06-19.
  18. ^ "Keskerakond on jätkuvalt muulaste seas populaarseim erakond - Eesti uudised". Postimees. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  19. ^ Sivonen, Erkki (9 April 2012). "Eight Top-Ranking Members to Leave Centre Party". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  20. ^ "Valimistulemused". 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  21. ^ ERR (2016-11-09). "Prime Minister loses no confidence vote, forced to resign". ERR. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  22. ^ ERR (2016-11-23). "President appoints Jüri Ratas' government". ERR. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  23. ^ "Yana Toom: narkomaane peab karmimalt karistama". Arvamus. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  24. ^ Merje Pors. "Keskerakond ei jõua partnerlusseaduse osas kokkuleppele". Postimees. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  25. ^ Simson, Kadri (2012-05-23). Foorum (Motion picture) (in Estonian). Tallinn, Estonia: Estonian Public Broadcasting. Event occurs at 21:47. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11.
  26. ^ Jeffries, Ian (2004), The Countries of the Former Soviet Union at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: The Baltic and European states in transition, Routledge, p. 141

External links

1999 Estonian parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in Estonia on 7 March 1999. The elections proved disastrous for the Estonian Coalition Party, which won only seven seats together with two of its smaller allies. The Estonian Country People's Union, which participated the election on its own list, obtained seven seats as well.

The programme of Mart Laar’s government was signed by Pro Patria Union, Reform Party, Moderates and People’s Party. The latter two merged soon after, so Mart Laar’s second government is widely known as Kolmikliit, or Tripartite coalition. Notwithstanding the different political orientation of the ruling parties, the coalition stayed united until Mart Laar resigned in December 2001, after Reform Party had broken up the same coalition in Tallinn municipality, making opposition leader Edgar Savisaar new Mayor of Tallinn. After resignation of Laar, Reform Party and Estonian Centre Party formed a coalition that lasted until next parliamentary election, 2003.

2007 Estonian parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in Estonia on 4 March 2007. It was the world's first nationwide vote where part of the voting was carried out in the form of remote electronic voting via the internet.

The election saw the Estonian Reform Party emerged as the largest faction in the Riigikogu with 31 seats. The Estonian Centre Party finished second with 29 seats, whilst the new Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica lost 16 seats compared to the 35 won by the two parties in the 2003 elections. The Social Democrats gained 4 seats, whilst the Greens entered the Riigikogu for the first time with 7 seats and the People's Union lost seven of its 13 seats.

2009 European Parliament election in Estonia

The European Parliament election of 2009 in Estonia was the election of the delegation from Estonia to the European Parliament in 2009.

The election day was 7 June 2009. Turnout was 43.9% – about 17.1% higher than during the previous election five years before. The turnout was also slightly above the European average of 42.94%.

Six seats were up for taking in this election: two of them were won by the Estonian Centre Party. Estonian Reform Party, Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, Social Democratic Party and an independent candidate Indrek Tarand all won one seat each.

The election result was remarkable in that the independent candidate Indrek Tarand gathered the support of 102,460 voters, only 1,046 votes less than the winner of the election, Estonian Centre Party, surpassing the results of all other major and minor parties.

Another independent candidate, eurosceptical Martin Helme, surprised also in gaining 9,832 votes and thus surpassing one parliament party - People's Union of Estonia - and gaining only 1,019 less than the next best on the list, Estonian Greens.

The election was conducted using the D'Hondt method with closed lists. The success of independent candidates in this election has been attributed both to general disillusionment with major parties and use of closed lists which rendered voters unable to cast a vote for specific candidates in party lists.

2011 Estonian presidential election

An indirect presidential election took place in Estonia on August 29, 2011. There were two candidates: incumbent president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and European parliament deputy Indrek Tarand. For the first time in the country's post-Soviet history, only one round took place, as Ilves was able to secure the necessary two-thirds majority to get re-elected without a runoff. Ilves received 73 votes while Tarand obtained only 25. One vote was blank and two were disqualified. Ilves was supported by the ruling Estonian Reform Party and Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, as well as the Social Democratic Party, to which he formerly belonged. Tarand was supported by the Estonian Centre Party.

2013 Estonian municipal elections

Municipal elections were held in Estonia on 20 October 2013, with advance voting between 10 and 16 October 2013. A total of 2,951 municipal council seats were up for election in 215 municipalities. The number of councillors had decreased by over 125 compared to the previous elections due to the merging of some municipalities.The result was a victory for the Estonian Centre Party, which retained its majority in Tallinn by taking 46 of the 79 seats.

Edgar Savisaar

Edgar Savisaar (born 31 May 1950) is an Estonian politician, one of the founding members of Popular Front of Estonia and the Centre Party. He has served as the acting Prime Minister of Estonia, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications and Mayor of Tallinn.

Jaak Aab

Jaak Aab (born 9 April 1960 in Taagepera) is an Estonian politician and a former Minister of Social Affairs of Estonia. He belongs to the Estonian Centre Party (Eesti Keskerakond).

Jüri Ratas

Jüri Ratas (born 2 July 1978) is an Estonian politician who is the current leader of the Centre Party and the Prime Minister of Estonia. He acted as the vice-president of the Riigikogu from 2007 to 2016 and Mayor of Tallinn from 2005 to 2007. As a mayor of Tallinn he initiated the European Green Capital programme.In the 2015 Estonian parliamentary election, Ratas was re-elected to the parliament with 7,932 individual votes. In March he was elected as the second deputy speaker of the Riigikogu.On 5 November 2016, Ratas was elected to succeed Edgar Savisaar as the leader of the Centre Party.After Taavi Rõivas' second cabinet split in November 2016 due to internal struggle, coalition talks began between Centre Party, Social Democratic Party, and Pro Patria and Res Publica Union. On 19 November, the three parties agreed on the conditions of the new coalition led by Ratas. Ratas was sworn in as the prime minister of Estonia on 23 November.

Katrin Siska

Katrin Siska (born December 10, 1983) is an Estonian celebrity, vlogger, musician and member of the Estonian pop-rock band Vanilla Ninja.

Siska was born in Tallinn, Estonia. Alongside her musical commitments, she has also been studying finance and accounting at a vocational school and international relations and diplomacy in Tallinn. After moving back to Estonia with Vanilla Ninja from Germany in 2006 she returned to university to study law at Tallinn University of Technology.She is fluent in Estonian, Russian, English, German and Finnish. At the university she has been studying also French.Siska was a member of a choir during her schooltime and started playing the piano when she was 7 years old. She has a younger sister.In August 2009, Siska joined the Estonian Centre Party.

Liberalism and centrism in Estonia

This article gives an overview of liberalism and centrism in Estonia. It is limited to liberal and centrist parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme. For inclusion in this scheme it is not necessary that the party has labeled itself as a liberal party.

List of people with most personal votes in Estonian parliamentary elections

This is a list of people with most personal votes in Estonian parliamentary elections.

Mailis Reps

Mailis Reps (née Rand, born 13 January 1975 in Tallinn) is an Estonian politician, a member of the Estonian Centre Party. She served as the Minister of Education and Research from 2002 to 2003, 2005 to 2007 and since 2016.

Robert Lepikson

Robert Lepikson (14 June 1952 – 1 July 2006) was an Estonian politician, businessman and rally driver/co-driver.

As a rally driver, he was the Estonian champion three times, winner of the Baltic Cup and was the head of the Estonian motosport league.

As a politician, he switched party memberships several times, having been a member of the Estonian Coalition Party, the Estonian Centre Party and the People's Union of Estonia. He was the mayor of Tallinn for 7 months in 1996 and 1997. He lost his position as a result of conflicts caused by his out-spoken nature regarding fellow politicians in public.

In 1999, he was involved in a scandal in Estonian politics, in which Mart Laar used Edgar Savisaar's picture as a target on a shooting range.

He died of a stroke in 2006.

Siiri Oviir

Siiri Oviir (born 3 November 1947) is an Estonian politician and Member of the European Parliament.

Oviir was born in Tallinn. As an MEP, she belonged to the Estonian Centre Party until she decided to leave on 9 April 2012.Oviir is married to civil servant Mihkel Oviir. Her daughter is politician Liisa Oviir.

Social Liberal Group (Estonia)

Social Liberal Group was formed on 8 May 2004 and ended 10 May 2005, from the formal Centrists who left the Estonian Centre Party. The social-liberals had only a group status, not even a fraction or a party status.

Social-liberals had three seats in Parliament. In Riigikogu they had a vice chairman chair, Peeter Kreitzberg. The group members had a different ideology, so it was likely that the group would split up to other parties. On 31 March they made an agreement with Estonian Socialdemocratic Party. This agreement declared their co-operation in parliament and in local council election in 2005.

On 4 April 2005, Olev Laanjärv returned to the Centre Faction. On 10 May 2005 Peeter Kreitzberg and Sven Mikser joined with ESDP, Robert Lepikson joined with People's Union and Harri Õunapuu joined with Reform Party. On 22 November 2005 Jaanus Marrandi joined with People's Union. On 27 November 2005, Mark Soosaar joined with ESDP.

Tõnu Trubetsky

Tõnu Trubetsky (born 24 April 1963), also known as Tony Blackplait, is an Estonian punk rock/glam punk musician, film and music video director, and individualist anarchist. He is a member of the princely Trubetskoy family.

Vilja Toomast

Vilja Toomast (born 15 August 1962, Antsla as Vilja Laanaru; 1996-2010 Vilja Savisaar; 2010-2015 Vilja Savisaar-Toomast) is an Estonian politician, a former Member of the European Parliament. She previously belonged to the Estonian Centre Party which she decided to leave on 9 April 2012.In 1992–1995, Vilja Laanaru was a member of Riigikogu, belonging to the Independent Royalist Party of Estonia. In 1997, she joined the Estonian Centre Party and has several times been elected to Riigikogu as well as worked in Tallinn city government. In 2009, she became a Member of the European Parliament after Edgar Savisaar renounced his mandate, so as to remain mayor of Tallinn. She left the Centre Party in 2012, maintaining her position as a MEP, and joined the Estonian Reform Party in June 2013. She ran again at the 2014 European elections, but was not successful.

In June 2018, Toomast returned to Riigikogu to replace MP Eerik-Niiles Kross, who had vacated his seat.She has been President of the Estonian Volleyball Federation since 2007 and since November 2008, in the Executive Committee of the Estonian Olympic Committee for the next 4 years.

Värner Lootsmann

Värner Lootsmann (born August 18, 1945 in Kasispea) is an Estonian Politician from Harju County.

Yana Toom

Yana Toom (born 15 October 1966) is an Estonian politician and Member of the European Parliament from Estonia. She is a member of the Estonian Centre Party, part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

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