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.
Early life and parents
Savisaar was born in the Harku Prison in 1950. His parents farmers Elmar Savisaar (1911–1970) and Marie Savisaar née Burešin (1912–1984) from Vastse-Kuuste, Tartu County, had been convicted in 1949 for resisting the collectivization. The events, which had culminated with physical conflict, had started when kolhoz activists came to nationalise Savisaar's two cows named Marja and Oksa, a pig, an horse drawn hay rake, a spring-tooth harrow and other farming equipment. Elmar was sentenced for 15 years (freed in 1952) and Marie for 5 years (freed in 1950) in prison.
After graduating from high school, Savisaar continued his studies at the University of Tartu. In 1973, he graduated from the university with a degree in history. In 1980, he wrote his candidate thesis in philosophy on the topic "Social Philosophical Foundations of the Global Models of the Club of Rome".
From 1980 to 1988, Savisaar worked in the Soviet Estonian governmental institutions dealing with the planning of economy. During 1988–1989, he was the academic director for the consultation company "Mainor".
In April he co-established the Popular Front (Rahvarinne) which became the first political mass organization in Soviet Union outside Communist Party after 1920. Initially formed to "support perestroika" Popular Front started increasingly develop ideas of Estonian national independence and created so called Singing Revolution phenomenon. The process with several others lead to dissolution of Soviet Union ultimately.
In 1989, he became the Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Estonian SSR and the Head of the State Plan Committee. In 1990, he was the Minister of Economic Affairs. On 3 April 1990, he was appointed the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. When Estonia declared its independence on 20 August 1991, he became the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia. His government was in office until 29 January 1992, when he resigned after supplementary problems and a continuing decline in economy. Most of his governing time was characterized by hyperinflation and ever increasing deficit of goods. "Purchase cards" and ration stamps were introduced. During the winter of 1991/1992 preparations were made to evacuate the dormitory regions of Tallinn due to shortage of fuel. On 31 December 1991, people stood for hours in the bread queues, many were eventually left without bread. In January 1992, butter disappeared from the shops. Savisaar managed to win a vote of non-confidence, being mostly supported by his Popular Front, left-wing parties and the Intermovement, but stepped down when it turned out impossible to introduce a state of emergency. He was replaced by a technocratic government under Tiit Vähi.
From 1992 until 1995, Savisaar was the Vice-Speaker of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu). From 17 April to 6 November 1995, he was the Minister for Internal Affairs. When he was accused of recording private conversations of other politicians, the entire government faltered. Although his participation in the recordings was never proved, he announced his intention to leave politics. However, in 1996, he participated in the elections of the Riigikogu and became the chairman of the Tallinn City Council. His return to the Centre Party leader's post evoked a split, as some leading members disillusioned with Savisaar's leadership style left to found Arengupartei. From 2001 to 14 October 2004, he was mayor of Tallinn. On 11 April 2005, he became Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications in the new coalition of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and worked in the post until March 2007.
Since 2007 he has been mayor of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
Edgar Savisaar and Estonia People's Union leader Villu Reiljan jointly supported Arnold Rüütel's candidature for presidency in August–September 2006; Toomas Hendrik Ilves was elected though, a choice criticised by Savisaar and attributed by him to alleged hostile media and partisan lawmakers. Savisaar refused to congratulate the winner.
In 2016, the discussion on electing a new leader escalated in the Centre Party and an extraordinary party congress was called for November. MP Jüri Ratas was the first to announce his candidacy, after which four others followed, including Yana Toom. Even though Savisaar first announced his candidacy, he later announced that he would not participate the leadership election and instead endorsed Toom.
Savisaar has published four books. He has received the Order of the National Coat of Arms 2nd Class in 2001 and 1st Class in 2006 from Estonia and the Order of the Three Stars 2nd Class in 2005 from Latvia.
Savisaar giving an interview during the 2006 presidential election
Savisaar is one of the most controversial politicians in Estonia. While some people, including many from the Russian-speaking minority, see him as a defender of the poor, his political opponents accuse him of authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption, destructive intrigues, and having close ties with some Russian politicians. The latter accusation has been fuelled by the Centre Party's collaboration agreement with Putin's United Russia party, particularly since the agreement's content has not been made public. Savisaar is often associated with using Machiavellian politics and deals to achieve his goals, such as taping other politicians, which caused the so-called tape scandal in 1995; and while being the mayor of the Estonian capital Tallinn, real-estate deals that were good for the members of the Centre Party, but were bad for the town.
During the events surrounding the Bronze Soldier, Edgar Savisaar spoke out against the removal of the monument and accused Andrus Ansip of deliberate attempts of splitting the Estonian society by provoking the Russian minority. In response to this many government officials and public figures have stated distrust and disrespect towards him.
In relation to his reactions to the Bronze Soldier controversy, the Estonian Patriotic Movement created on 29 April 2007 an online petition website www.mahasavisaar.com to suggest resignation of Savisaar's position as the Mayor of Tallinn. It ended on 9 May 2007 and had collected 98,200 e-mail addresses (not signatures, although organizers of petition claimed so). In 2009 being a candidate for EP elections collected a 103506 votes in closed list system.
On 17 July 2015, Estonian Internal Security Service launched a criminal investigation on Savisaar and six others in relation to bribery allegations. He is suspected of accepting bribes with a value of hundreds of thousands of euros in 2014 and 2015 on behalf of himself and Estonian Centre Party. It was later revealed that Savisaar was also suspected of corruption and money laundering. Because of the ongoing investigation, Savisaar was suspended from mayor's office on 30 September 2015. His original trial commenced in Harju County Court in June 2017. The county court ended the proceedings in June 2018 due to Savisaar's medical condition, however in August a higher circuit court ordered for the trial to resume. In December 2018, the Supreme Court of Estonia annulled the ruling of the circuit court, thus releasing Savisaar from criminal proceedings.
Edgar Savisaar has been married three times and is the father of four children. From his marriage to Kaire Savisaar he has a son Erki Savisaar, who is a Centre Party a politician. From his marriage to Liis Remmel (then Liis Savisaar), he has a daughter Maria and son Erki. The last marriage was to Vilja Toomast (then Vilja Savisaar), who is also an Estonian politician. They had a daughter, Rosina. The couple announced their separation and divorce in December 2009.
In March 2015, Savisaar was hospitalized due to an infection of Streptococcus bacteria in his right leg which had to be amputated above the knee. He contracted the disease during a trip in Thailand.
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- ^ "Savisaar suspected of corruption, money laundering, accepting illegal political donations". ERR. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- ^ "Savisaar suspended from mayor's office". ERR. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- ^ "Savisaar's mental faculties enable him to stand trial, expert says". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 13 June 2017.
- ^ "Court closes Savisaar case due to defendant's illness". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 5 June 2018.
- ^ "Second-tier court overturns termination of Savisaar trial". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 14 August 2018.
- ^ "Savisaar freed from trial by Supreme Court". ERR. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
- ^ Pihl, Kristjan (24 March 2015). "Erki Savisaar: „Me seisame isaga samade väärtuste eest!". Eesti Ekspress (in Estonian). Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- ^ "Savisaare naised - abikaasad, ustavad jüngrid ja noorukesed wannabe 'd". www.ohtuleht.ee. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
- ^ "Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar critically ill with an infection, leg amputated above the knee". err.ee. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- ^ "Edgar Savisaare jalg amputeeriti - Uudised - Tartu Postimees". tartu.postimees.ee. Retrieved 13 August 2016.