Ratings: Gap between EKRE and Estonia 200 narrows

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A Riigikogu sitting in progress. Source: Erik Peinar/ Riigikogu office

While support for the two largest political parties in Estonia, Reform and Center, remains largely unchanged this week, according to one poll, the gap between the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and the non-parliamentary Estonia 200 continues to narrow.

Opposition party Reform picked up 30.7 percent of support, according to the survey, commissioned by think-tank the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) and conducted by pollsters Norstat, while Center, the largest coalition party, saw 21.7 percent support. These figures represented only a slight change on the previous week (a fall for Reform and rise for Center).

In third place as in previous weeks was EKRE, also in office, which polled at 14.5 percent, continuing a recent trend for a fall in support.

Meanwhile, the non-parliamentary Estonia 200 party continues to enjoy an upward trend in support, closing the gap on EKRE, in many ways its natural political opponent, with 13.7 percent support.

Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) was next in the ratings with 8.4 percent, and coalition Isamaa party polled at 5.4 percent.

Overall, the three coalition parties saw 41.9 percent of support from respondents, compared with 39.1 percent for the two opposition parties.

As noted, the continued rise in support levels for Estonia 200, which has no Riigikogu seats, by 6.2 percentage points in the last seven weeks, and the concurrent fall in support for EKRE (down 2.5 percentage points over four weeks) were the two main observable trends.

Analyst: Estonia 200 mopping up previously uncommitted voters

While the one party is not likely to be "poaching" support from the other, political scientist Martin Mölder noted the narrowing margin between the two parties – which he said was due mainly to a fall in unpledged voters.

The share of these has fallen to a record low of 20.8 percent, by Norstat's reckoning, with Estonia 200 the largest beneficiary.

At the same time, EKRE's support is more tried-and-tested at the polls, he said.

"EKRE supporters have proved themselves in the elections and it is certain that if elections actually took place now, these supporters would go to the polls. As to Estonia 200, probably most of their current record support, picked up from previous non-voters cannot, be so assured. If elections took place now, many of these people would probably still not vote," said Mölder.  

Nonetheless, Mölder felt it symbolic that EKRE and Estonia 200 are increasingly neck-and-neck in support.

EKRE's success since it was founded in 2012, entering office for the first time in 2019, is largely down to disenfranchised people who felt that the socio-economic developments during the boom years of the 2000s had largely passed them by, thanks to an elitist, inward looking clique ruling from Toompea which left the rank and file citizen without a voice.

In turn, Estonia 200 has been a reaction to that development, but also to the existing opposition, he said, making it a party for all seasons

"Estonia 200 is a reaction to EKRE, but also to the opposition, as the latter have not been able to define themselves politically in the new situation," Mölder went on.

Analyst: Estonia 200 on way to becoming EKRE polar opposite

"Whereas EKRE is a 'people's' party which has garnered support from dissatisfaction among the ordinary citizenry, Estonia 200 is an 'elite' party that has nonetheless also picked up support arising from dissatisfaction."

"Estonia 200 is an elite party in two ways: On the one hand, their message that policy-making should remain the domain of elites, with the relevant expertise, which automatically sends the message that the common people have nothing to do with politics, which must be left to the competent elites to trust. On the other hand, as in the case of the Reform Party, their elitist-leaning focus is evident in the profile of their supporters – Estonia 's 200 support is especially high among high – income and highly educated people," Mölder went on.

This means that while EKRE is one pole of the Estonian political scene, Estonia 200 has the potential to be the polar opposite, since neither SDE nor Reform seem to have been able to assert themselves in the current political climate, Mölder thought (Estonia 200 has also been working to forge links with the Russian-speaking community – ed.).

The party still has some way to go, Mölder added, ahead of next autumn's local elections. Picking up non-committed voters will not give them a firm enough basis, but rather, they should take support from Reform and SDE – something which has not been observable yet, he said.

Estonia 200, known as Eesti 200 in Estonian, entered its first-ever election in March 2019, having been founded in the latter half of the previous year. It narrowly missed out on winning Riigikogu seats, missing the 5 percent threshold necessary to do that by a few tenths of a percent. The party has been led by Kristina Kallas (no relation to Reform leader Kaja Kallas – ed.), a political scientist from the University of Tartu, throughout that time, with former defense minister Margus Tsahkna, who defected from Isamaa, being one of its highest-profile figures to have joined to date.

Norstat's latest poll covers an aggregate period of results from November 3-30. Just over 4,000 citizens of voting age were polled, and Norstat claims an error margin of +/- 1.55 percent.

The Institute for Social Research is a conservative think-tank founded in January 2016, which studies and analyzes social phenomena taking place in Estonian society.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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