Estonia needs a strong opposition with weight to its words and the ability to prevent foolishness and major mistakes by the government. While the government has repeatedly engaged in the latter, it is mainly the press and not the opposition addressing it," Indrek Kiisler finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
The opposition could hardly get a word in during that period of fast-paced decisions. That is how it went in all democratic Western countries, Estonia was no exception. We were in a hurry to borrow, launch support programs and address other pressing matters.
Popular support for the government usually spikes during crises or extraordinary circumstances. The ruling Social Democratic Party of Finland saw its popularity surge during the spring crisis. It has started to come down again. It is only natural as we are now moving into the period of looking for a scapegoat that is also just a part of human nature.
However, Estonia seems to be a complete exception here. The popularity of coalition parties did not spike during the crisis as ratings remained more or less unchanged compared to the previous period. These petrified attitudes reflect polarization and political stagnation as the rating of the opposition also remained unchanged.
Opposition leader the Reform Party's excellent rating has had a hypnotic effect on the squirrels themselves (Reform Party mascot – ed.) and the government. The only time Reform was visible this summer was when it criticized Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) for his amateurish handling of finding a U.S. law firm to help Estonia investigate money laundering. But even in this matter, the brunt of the work has been done by Eesti Ekspress journalists rather than opposition politicians.
The government and the parties that make up the coalition see that voter attitudes are slow to change no matter what they do. This has largely allowed them to go about their agenda in peace. It is like a reflection of World Wat One – people sitting in trenches, taking shots at each other across an empty field for months and years on end.
Deep polarization on the political landscape benefits neither the people nor the state because it is fall and we need a thorough debate on future steps when it comes to the economy and public health.
I also perceive another problem in the opposition's inability to offer viable alternatives to the current government's policy.
Has anyone heard anything specific in terms of the opposition's plans for delivering the Estonian economy from the mire it finds itself in following the coronavirus crisis? What are the Reform Party's proposals? Could we be talking about a sharp tax cut, fundamental structural reforms? Where are the Social Democrats' proposals for salary and benefit hikes, job retention? Why aren't solutions offered to core voters?
Is the parliamentary minority's only hope that the Center Party, Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Isamaa will over time become so loathsome for most voters that today's opposition will, with help from the non-parliamentary Estonia 200 party, secure over half of the vote at the next parliamentary elections? If so, things are bad indeed. Whereas the aforementioned stagnation in ratings is hardly encouraging in terms of such hopes.
As voters, we want to see an alternative to the government's policy of unchecked borrowing. Where to find the money to keep the healthcare system going? Where is next year's shadow budget? And please do not wait for the government to propose its budget plan! Come out with your proposals first.
Estonia needs a strong opposition with weight to its words and the ability to prevent foolishness and major mistakes on the government's part. While the government has repeatedly engaged in the latter, it is mainly the press addressing it.
A strong opposition can only be created if those that form it are able to offer alternatives, while simply criticizing ministers on current topics during Riigikogu Question Time comes off as a dog barking confidently in knowing that there is a high fence between it and the world. The government should be afraid of the opposition as democracy will crumble otherwise.
Editor: Marcus Turovski