Political scientist: Isamaa and EKRE could divide the opposition landscape

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Martin Mölder. Source: ERR

Although Isamaa faces the danger of staying in EKRE's shadow, the two outgoing coalition parties could divide the political landscape in a way that one takes voters from Reform and the other from Center, says political scientist Martin Mölder.

"EKRE is in a good position to attract the more conservative voters of Center Party. Isamaa is in a good position to do the same with Reform supporters. There are also those Reform voters who are liberal when it comes to the economy but conservative in social questions. If EKRE and Isamaa divide these fields, they can act without interfering with each other," Mölder, a researcher at the University of Tartu's Johan Skytte Institute for Political Studies, told Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+" on Friday.

He believes the current situation, following the government collapse on Wednesday morning, is more now difficult for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and non-parliamentary Eesti 200.

"The problem for the Social Democrats is a little bigger as the peak of their support was in 2013 and has gradually fallen since then. The formation of the last two governments has shown that SDE is out of the picture. Their chance is to show themselves as a liberal party who everyone not pleased with the government can turn to," Mölder said.

However, this would mean that SDE would compete with Eesti 200, which has gained a lot of traction among public support over the last few months. A recent Norstat survey showed the non-parliamentary party had 16.4 percent support among surveyed voting-age citizens making it the third most popular party.

"Eesti 200's situation will get more complicated now. The whole momentum that pushed them over the electoral threshold and brought them to their current heights was built upon being the opposite of the now outgoing government. By opposing the government and the marriage referendum, they were able to increase their support. Their situation will now become more complicated and they will likely begin to do what they did when they entered politics - oppose the party system in general. And they will certainly talk about corruption more," Mölder said.

Speaking about the potential new Reform-Center government, he said he did not believe the idea appeared out of thin air.

"A so-called plan B and an exit strategy were considered for decision-makers. Porto Franco was a good excuse that made certain processes move. It reminded me of 2016, when the chairman of Center changed (from party co-founder and former Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar to Jüri Ratas - ed.), after which the party became eligible to be in a coalition. The initiated proceedings were a good excuse for processes that had been thought of earlier. How bigger deciding factor was Mailis Reps' return to the Riigikogu, we might never get to know," Mölder said.

His justification of why Reform want a coalition with Center and not Isamaa and SDE, was that a coalition with Center is currently easier to form.

"By saying that Isamaa did not want to be in government with Reform, Reform can say that a union with Center was the only option for a government and it is also why the so-called old union (Reform-Isamaa-SDE) was not possible. In addition, Center is now in a weaker position than it was after the elections in 2019. We should also remember that the ideological stand-off between Isamaa and SDE is quite big. In conclusion, a coalition with Center alone was the simpler option for Reform," Mölder explained.

At the same time, the union will not be easy for those involved. Mölder noted that the public had already started to forgot the image Center had when Edgar Savisaar was chairman and the party was linked to many large-scale corruption activities.

"All the corruption allegations were tied to him. And now all of that returns and Center will find it complicated to clean themselves of that. And that will cast a shadow on the entire government. Kaja Kallas will have a difficult time leading this government as she lacks the experience of executive power," Mölder said.

He does not believe that Reform and Center, both part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE), will bring the topic of implementation acts of the Registered Partnership Act to politics right away, even though society's opposition toward the topic has softened over time.

"If it was done immediately, it would create tension and would appear to be pouring salt on the wound. This does not mean, however, that the thought will not go through their head. When the Registered Partnership Act was passed in 2014, the voting majority was opposed to it, and that all ended with a chain of events that brought EKRE into the government. Now there is a balance between cohabitation supporters and opponents and it would not be as dangerous to move forward with implementation acts. But I do not think it will be done yet," Mölder said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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