Ratings: Reform, EKRE support rose through January

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Riigikogu January 13 sitting. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Both coalition party Reform and the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) have seen their support rise through January, pollsters Norstat report.

Norstat's latest results, in a survey conducted regularly for the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), gave 30.7 percent support to Reform, retaining its place as the most popular party after entering office with Center last month and seeing 2.3 percentage-point rise over the past three weeks. The latter remain in second place with 20.6 percent support, according to Norstat, a slight fall on previous ratings and the lowest support level the party has seen since the coronavirus pandemic began.

A total of 51.3 percent of respondents supported the two coalition parties, while 30 percent pledged their support for the three opposition parties, with the remainder undecided.

EKRE, as reported by all three major polling companies in Estonia LINK, have overtaken non-parliamentary Eesti 200 following a rise in support, put by Norstat at 3.5 percentage points over six weeks, to 17.1 percent. EKRE and Isamaa departed from office after the coalition with Center collapsed following Jüri Ratas' (Center) resignation as prime minister on January 13.

Eesti 200 polled at 14.9 percent, while the two other opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SDE) and Isamaa, picked up 7.3 percent and 5.6 percent support each, figures relatively unchanged on recent weeks.

Researcher Martin Mölder says that the three most significant changes in support levels over the past month cover Reform, EKRE and Eesti 200 – three parties which at the beginning of the year were in three different places, i.e. in opposition, in office and not represented at the Riigikogu. This status has not changed, only that EKRE switched places with Reform.

Mölder said: "We can see that in parallel with the collapse of the previous government and the formation of a new one, the relative support of the Reform Party has increased. The collapse of the previous government has benefited EKRE, at least in the short term with 15 percent [support], making EKRE once again clearly the third party instead of Eesti 200."

As to reasons for this, Mölder pointed to a rise in support for EKRE – an avowedly nationalistic Estonian party – from among the Russian-speaking demographic, a wave which has continued into February, he said. Twelve percent of Russian-speaking respondents in the latest survey pledged for EKRE – only a little behind their overall support.

"At the same time, the support of the Center Party among Russian-speaking voters continues to decline," Mölder added.

The cause of this has been speculated in the media as a result of the EKRE-sponsored referendum on the definition of marriage, a bill which has now been canned but which, experts say, appeals to the substantial proportion of Russian-speaking voters who are socially conservative, and presumably looking towards attitudes to the issue in the Russian Federation. Center, on the other hand, are still in office and so had a role in striking off the bill, though a decline in support for that party among the Russian-speaking electorate, traditionally one of the party's bedrocks, had been observed as early on as the March 2019 general election. That time, low voter turnout in Ida-Viru County in particular, rather than voters switching to another party, was behind Center's polling somewhat less than expected.

Anxiety about the implementation of green energy policies and the consequent decline of the oil shale industry, a staple in Ida-Viru County, is likely also behind the drift.

The next elections are to local government, in fall this year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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