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Party ratings: Support largely unchanged, Isamaa currently in doldrums

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder at a party board meeting in Paide in pre-pandemic days at the end of February.
Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder at a party board meeting in Paide in pre-pandemic days at the end of February. Source: Olev Kenk / ERR

Support for the five parties represented at the Riigikogu, plus the non-parliamentary Estonia 200, has not changed significantly in the past week, though Reform's support has fallen a little over two weeks, according to one survey. At the same time, support for coalition party Isamaa is the lowest it has been for over a year.

30.9 percent of respondents expressed support for the opposition Reform Party, which is 1.5 percentage points lower than two weeks ago, though Reform remains the most popular party, according to the survey, conducted by pollsters Norstat on behalf of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut).

In second place was the senior coalition party, Center, on 24.5 percent; the second-largest coalition party in terms of Riigikogu seats, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) came in third again on 18.3 percent.

As in previous weeks, the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) was next on 8.4 percent, followed by the non-parliamentary Estonia 200 (7.5 percent) and the third coalition party, Isamaa (5.2 percent).

The three coalition parties found support from 48 percent of respondents, the two opposition parties, 39.3 percent.

Analyst: Isamaa lack Russian-speaking support, squeezed by EKRE, but still potentially provide attractive option

Isamaa's support was the lowest by Norstat's understanding since the beginning of 2019. Researcher Martin Mölder told BNS that this was due to practically zero support from the Russian-speaking component of the population.

This contrasts with EKRE support, which has been stable and not affected one way or another by being in office (the party entered government for the first time ever at the end of April 2019). Support for Center has in fact started to improve as a result of being in office, following a relatively disappointing show in the March 2019 general election, where it garnered 26 seats, eight fewer than Reform.

The party was able to remain in office by striking a deal with EKRE and Isamaa, however.

The latter's support is now just above the 5 percent threshold needed for Riigikogu seats under Estonia's d'Hondt-inspired proportional representation voting system (see graph above). In other words, were an election to be held today, Isamaa would only scrape through in getting seats, assuming the Norstat poll is representative.

"If we look at the developments in support for Isamaa in recent months, it is noteworthy that following the introduction of the [coronavirus] emergency situation, their support clearly decreased among men," Mölder said.

Whether this was a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, Mölder did not say.

Isamaa's support among the older generation (75 or over) remains stronger, however; as noted the support from Russian-speaking voters is almost wholly absent.

Mölder noted that even EKRE manages to glean a few percentage points of support from among Russian-speaking voters, something that Isamaa might need to think about, in his view.

Isamaa has one native Russian-speaking MP, Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits.

Isamaa is also troubled by the current alignment in office, Mölder claimed.

"Among the various coalition options, the current government is probably the Isamaa's most preferred, but unfortunately they have not been able to change who they are in office with."

The advent of EKRE also took away from Isamaa, he thought.

"It may be partly a consequence of a conservative change of direction. The arrival of EKRE into office could have brought some voters from the party who would have rather supported the 'old' Isamaa. Perhaps the party has not yet managed to win new voters," Mölder said.

Of hopeful signs for Isamaa, its position in the ideological landscape might help it going forward, the analyst went on.

"Their voters are clearly on the right-hand end of the economic spectrum, together with EKRE and Reform Party voters, and although the patriotic element within the electorate has moved towards conservatism in recent years, they lie between Reform and EKRE on this continuum."

In other words Isamaa's broadly free-market economic policies could potentially attract former Reform voters; their brand of national conservatism could similarly win over voters from EKRE.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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