Eight members of Estonia’s opposition Center Party, including four lawmakers, left the party citing its lack of democracy and disagreements with the leadership over “isolationist” policies.
The eight, including European Parliament members Siiri Oviir and Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, said they would continue to stand for “a strong middle class,” according to a statement e- mailed today.
The move reduced the party’s seats in the 101-member Riigikogu to 21, following the defection of another lawmaker last month over dissent with Chairman and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar. Tumult within the party will help the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, which saw its support in opinion polls slide last month to the lowest level since elections were held a year ago, said Rein Toomla, a political science lecturer at Tartu University.
The Center party and opposition Social Democrats back higher social spending and scrapping Estonia’s zero-level corporate income tax on reinvested profits. Center was the Baltic nation’s only party opposing parliamentary ratification of Europe’s temporary rescue fund last September and of the second bailout package for Greece in February, saying Estonia’s lower living standards didn’t justify help for wealthier European countries.
Political infighting has cut Center’s public backing since January, according to an opinion poll by TNS Emor published on March 26. Even so, the combined support for Center and opposition Social Democrats rose to a record 53 percent last month following the country’s biggest strikes since independence in 1991.
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