IRL party chair discredits low party rating, nonetheless admits need to boost it
According to recently released party ratings, support for the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) has fallen below the 5 percent election threshold for the first time, while relative newcomers Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and the Free Party garnered approximately three times as much support. IRL Chairman Margus Tsahkna found, however, that the survey results were not credible.
"I think that that survey is nonsense, because after all, I can see for myself what’s going on around me,” Tsahkna told ERR’s radio news broadcast.
"We have never made better decisions or had a better period of action than during the past couple of months — beginning with the maintenance allowance fund, the private school [funding] dispute resolved positively, likewise other laws adopted in relation to the State Budget Strategy,” noted Tsahkna. In his opinion, the party rating survey results simply did not match the party’s actual reflection.
Speaking on ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera,” the IRL chairman maintained his stance on the ratings’ inability to be taken seriously, and noted that he had no plans whatsoever to begin changing the party’s policies.
“If we consider everything that IRL has managed to accomplish in the government, then we have a lot to show for ourselves — big reforms, beginning with the administrative reform, the implementation of the maintenance allowance fund, likewise family benefits reform, as a result of which three-child families will begin receiving 400-euro monthly support payments beginning next year,” explained Tsahkna.
“The conservative refugee policy accepted by the Riigikogu was put forth by our party," he continued. "Likewise the private schools dispute, which was concluded last week, was resolved with very positive results. And so we have a great many deeds and big reforms to show for ourselves — things are beginning to get rolling. Feedback from local governments, from people, paint a different perspective.”
Opportunities to boost ratings forthcoming
Speaking in a studio interview with “Aktuaalne kaamera,” Tsahkna said that his party’s falling ratings could possibly be due to the fact that being responsible for the government — as a part of the currently ruling three-party coalition alongside the Reform and Social Democratic Parties — was more difficult than right-wing parties’ belonging to the opposition.
He did not consider the drop in IRL’s rating a free-fall, however. “This is one survey, conducted by one company,” Tsahkna pointed out, noting that they should take other survey results, as well as results over the next few months, into account.
Nonetheless, the party chairman found that their next order of business would be to consider how to go about boosting party ratings. He found that the necessary conditions for this were there.
“During the past year in the government, my primary focus as party chairman has been to make substantive decisions, so we must now begin to look at how to get our ratings up,” said Tsahkna. “There are a number of upcoming opportunities to do so: Estonia is electing a new president this year, and local elections are coming up next year. The party’s organization is strong — we have nearly 80 local government leaders [to our name] — and so the conditions exist for achieving respectable results. Now we also just need to talk to people about our deeds.”
Ladõnskaja: There is a huge gap between parties’ contributions and popularity
Viktoria Ladõnskaja, a member of the IRL Parliamentary Group, commented on the party’s recent low rating, saying that the party’s politicians in the Riigikogu have stood up for their constituents.
“While the rating may be low, our work has been done and it has proven fruitful,” she noted, citing her party’s work on language proficiency requirements as well as the maintenance allowance fund.
“I have not been in politics long, but I can see that there is an immense gap between political parties’ substantive contributions and their respective popularity,” added Ladõnskaja. “A year ago, when I first got into politics, it was clear that my worldview, that of sensible conservatism, needs support just as conservative parties across all of Europe do. I reckoned that by going into politics, I would be heading to war.”
Youth council chairman: Only a generational change will help IRL
IRL Youth Chairman Linda Eichler commented on her Facebook page with a more critial view of the current situation in IRL, stating that it was a shame to see how the party’s reputation was damaged and years of work in the party’s youth organization went to waste as a result of certain people’s poor decisions.
“I wrote last August already that IRL has reached a stage where part of its long-ruling politicians have reached their limits — that they are out of ideas and have nothing left to give to Estonia,” wrote Eichler. “It is time to give it a break and gather ideas, maybe come back later.”
According to the party’s youth organization chairman, the only thing that could help IRL recover is a generational change. “Falling below the election threshold is a failure, and we must make serious changes,” asserted Eichler. “To say that a monthly party ratings suvey is ‘nonsense, because after all, I can see for myself what’s actually going on’ only digs the hole deeper.”
She did not, however, blame the party chairman exclusively.
“It is at least as much an issue among the chairman’s closest colleagues,” Eichler explained. “Their job is to be in constant communication with people on the outside and reflect reality so that the [party] leader can make the right decisions based on that information — this is precisely where they have failed. The situation had been obvious for some time, but apparently they were busy sucking up to one another, patting each other on the back and glamorizing the situation in order to hang onto their positions. Or a team was assembled of simply incapable people, which can happen when you make lack of personal opinion a requirement in your staffing decisions.”