It is good if people outside the mainstream are represented in the parliament and even better if they're part of the government. It helps the rest of society understand their concerns and bring them into the fold, Indrek Kiisler writes.
Every society has a vocal minority protesting the status quo at any given moment in time that usually makes up 10-20 percent of the population, while the latter naturally depends on the general level of social anxiety, the economic situation and many other everyday aspects.
Some have been caught in the gears of changing times, some cannot properly take care of themselves, while some are simply critical of everything around them their whole lives.
Peculiar as that might sound, people like that are of crucial importance to society as they remind us that not everyone is doing great and that the weak need protection. Sometimes, they catalyze change that helps society overcome lethargy.
A decade ago, this fellowship of grumblers formed the core of Edgar Savisaar's supporters. Savisaar was the figurehead of everything standing against the corruption on Toompea Hill. He was an authoritarian politician who fought against Estonia being "sold off," emphasized his contempt for the West and remained committed to the practices and customs of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Savisaar [as mayor] was building a seemingly better version of the state in Tallinn, with its own law enforcement, media outlets and even a municipal grocery store. These activities had no real substance, but the slogans were always painted in capital letters. A politician cannot be criticized for addressing the mentality and dreams of voters as it is what they need to stay alive and prosper. The fact that most voters would never have liked to see him as prime minister did not bother Savisaar.
Savisaar's exit from the political stage momentarily left the disgruntled to their own devices, while it did not take long for a new idol to take his place – enters the Conservative People's Party (EKRE).
EKRE is another classic representative of the constantly discontent minority. Their methods and slogans are similar to those employed by Savisaar – opposition to the recent system, ruling through do's and don'ts and seemingly spontaneous outbursts. And authoritarianism the roots of which once again go back to Soviet times.
Longing for the past and the conviction that "there was order in the good old days" is an inseparable part of the worldview of those inclined to frustration. That is why faraway Hungary, Belarus or even Russia seem like nice places where traditions are upheld and the rulers do not hesitate.
People who are critical of life in Estonia favor such autocracies mainly because things are done differently there, not like in Estonia or the Nordics. And if things are done differently, it means they are done better!
However, none of that matters right now. What matters is that EKRE has channeled these people to be a part of our political system and that's a good thing. It is necessary for the Estonian society as it gives the state back some credibility in the eyes of the frustrated that helps Estonia and its people function more successfully during what are difficult times.
Imagine EKRE being in the opposition during the coronavirus crisis or there being no representation whatsoever for the discontent part of society. It is the authority of the Helme family that has made the dissatisfied comply with crisis rules, comments about how the virus can be cured with goose fat have been forgotten and anyone doubting the government is treated to a good thrashing on social media.
It is to be hoped that the coronavirus crisis will remain a single fear-inducing episode in our lives. However, a part of society will always have an extremely critical social nerve and it is good if people who remain outside the mainstream are represented in the parliament and better yet in the government. It simply helps us understand their concerns better and bring them to the fold.
In truth, everyone will be safer for it, even people who believe EKRE is of the devil. EKRE is not a new phenomenon as dissatisfaction is the status quo for many. And it is better when EKRE is invited to the table because Mart and Martin Helme can, in fact, eat with a knife and fork – I have seen it with my own eyes.
Editor: Marcus Turovski