The Security Elephant in the Room ({{commentsTotal}})

Tõnis Saarts
Tõnis Saarts Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

All political parties know that security and the Russian threat are their main fare in these elections. Yet they are at a loss as to which fork and knife to use and how to serve it up to the voters. Sadly, some parties have forsaken all table manners that have applied in Estonian political campaigns up to now, political scientist Tõnis Saarts writes in's election blog.


The situation could be compared to the classical image of the “elephant in the room." “The elephant in the room” is a big problem or threat that all parties are aware of and which cannot be ignored, yet no one knows how to adequately deal with it and some dare not utter the animal’s correct name.

However, IRL and the Reform Party are fully aware of the existence of the elephant and are saying its name out loud. They are willing to tear down the house around the elephant and even paint the poor beast red so that everyone understands the danger of Russia, the local Russian-speaking population and Savisaar.

The problem is, that the picture described above lacks freshness and novel nuances: despite the best efforts of right-wing parties, everything looks faded, jaded, and even repulsive to more intelligent voters.

The Center Party is pretending that the elephant is not a relevant character in this game, instead asking us to look at the furnishings of the room: the furniture, curtains, wallpaper... To summarize: we should not focus on what the elephant is doing, and instead look at what it is like to live in the room. In other words, instead of hard security, we should talk about social security, quality of life etc.

The Social Democrats have only heard rumors about the elephant - they are still waiting to get inside the house to see the dangerous beast for themselves and form a position. But they are not exactly rushing to get in anyway. Instead, they are trying to convince us that the point is not the room and the elephant but what’s outside: Europe with its problems and concerns and Estonia in the midst of it.

The developments of the next few weeks will show, who can do well in these elections: those who speak about the elephant or those who focus on the elephant’s surroundings.

Tõnis Saarts is a Lecturer of Political Science at the Institute of Political Science and Governance of Tallinn University. This is a translation of an article originally published in Estonian on May 9 on the election blog of


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