Recent party support ratings do not paint the whole picture, since they were compiled just before this week's coalition split. All will be clear next month, finds market research firm Turu-uuringute sociologist Tõnis Stamberg.
Appearing on a special edition of ERR politics discussion show "Otse uudistemajast" Friday, Stamberg said that: "The scandals have been a flash in the pan; what rising ratings really mean is that you have been working with certain voter groups."
According to Turu-uuringute's latest poll, Center has overtaken Reform in popularity nationwide, though Reform remains the most-supported party in Tallinn. EKRE remains in third place, and its support has not changed much in recent weeks.
Co-host and ERR head of news and sport Anvar Samost said that the Mart Helme saga – which broke a week ago after the interior minister gave an interview to the Russian-language portal of Deutsche Welle – could lead to a rise in support for EKRE, particularly among Russian-speaking voters, with whom he could communicate via the interview.
"Based on polls it could be said that the average Russian voter is significantly more socially conservative," he went on.
"It's very possible that in a month's time we will see EKRE's support among Russian voters rise by a couiple of percentage points," he went on.
Mart Helme had said that gay people in Estonia might be better of relocating to Sweden, adding that he viewed the sector of society with a hostile eye.
The other co-host, head of radio news Indrek Kiisler, added that conversely, Russian support for Center, a traditional go-to party, may be harmed by the interview.
"Center's Russian-speaking voters are conservative and with a different faith background (i.e. Russian Orthodox – ed.) whereas some aspects of Center's leadership are quite liberal," he said, naming education minister Mailis Reps, Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart and the prime minister himself as examples.
Turu-uurigute's Tõnis Stamberg said that a point may be reached where Russian voters as a whole are aware that a party like EKRE exists, and grasp the values for which it stands, adding that he was not certain that all voters understood this yet.
Kiisler: EKRE and Center are in competition
Indrek Kiisler also said that EKRE and Center are competing for similar voters.
"In politics your biggest competitors are always party mates or those parties with whom you are competing for the same voter groups," he said.
Stamberg added that EKRE itself now understands very well that in order to grow its voter base, it needs to be in the spotlight all the time and to be working on all fronts. He added that it was important that it was important for voters that a party knows the names of all its members.
Anvar Samost said that this touches also on one of EKRE's weaknesses, namely that attention has not been doled out in equal measure and instead attention is constantly focused on the leading politicians (i.e. the Helmes-ed.), and other figures or the party rank and file have been neglected.
Samost: Reform should rein in attacks on Center
While the Reform Party was ready to enter coalition talks with Center this week, anticipating a possible power vacuum should EKRE depart the lineup, Anvar Samost said that the party's chair, Kaja Kallas, had been too critical and unfair, given none of the three coalition parties had been ready for new coalition talks, but also looking ahead.
"How far [Reform] can go in their attacks on Center and Jüri Ratas; I would say they should soften these public criticism. One day there will be the option on the table that the two parties can work together in government," he said, adding that a future Reform and EKRE coalition might be feasible.
Stamberg said he agreed with this, noting that "red lines" could not be drawn at this stage, though some parties will never be able to work together (the Social Democratic Party and EKRE would be a good example of this – ed.).
Editor: Andrew Whyte