Polls did not fuel new parties' rise, sociologist says
Sociologist Juhan Kivirähk says the success of two smaller parties newly represented in Parliament has nothing to do with the pre-election polls, but with the fact that they were able to debate with the big four parties, and voters' wish to break the status quo. The Conservative People's Party also gained popularity for opposing the gender-neutral cohabitation bill.
Kivirähk told ERR the six-party parliament was to be expected - the pre-election polls have been hinting since January that both the Free Party and the Conservative People's Party would pass the 5 percent threshold.
"It's been said that the polls helped, that by showing the two will make it they encouraged people to vote for them. In my opinion, there's a logical fallacy in that claim, for the polls only showed what was already a reality, they didn't cause it."
"It's clear that the two parties had become "acceptable" by January, the reason, in my opinion, being that they came out with full lists and were therefore eligible to attend ERR's public debates alongside four current Parliamentary parties," he explained, adding that this created an impression that the choice was really between six, and not four parties. "If the decision had been different: let the four big parties debate among themselves and keep the newcomers with the small fringe parties, we wouldn't have seen such success. Television holds a lot of sway and power," Kivirähk said.
He draw parallels with the 1992 elections, when the organizers decided to let the monarchists ton fancy dresses to participate in a TV debate, thinking it would make the debate more attractive to viewers but have no political consequences. The monarchists ended up taking eight seats in the Parliament.
Another factor, Kivirähk said, was people's need for a change that goes back to 2012, with large demonstrations against deceptive politics.
Moreover, the Conservative People's Party first gained momentum by vocally opposing the gender-neutral cohabitation bill. "I doubt they would have made it to Parliament had they not used the rhetoric against it," Kivirähk said.
He said the key behind Reform Party's third consecutive win was a change to a much wider platform, which speaks to a lot more voters than their traditional focus on liberal market. "Of course much of their success is still down to playing the good old 'it's either us or the Center Party' card."
Kivirähk also said the Reform Party and Social Dems are likely to continue their cooperation but will have to find a third coalition partner to form a majority government. Talks with IRL would be much more difficult than negotiating a deal with the Free Party, he added.