While support for the Center Party has declined in Estonia overall according to recent polling, the party has seen its rating rise in Ida-Viru County.
In January, the party only garnered the support of 21 percent of voting age citizens in Estonia's most eastern county, but now support for Center has risen 14 percent. However, based on just one month's polling, substantial conclusions cannot be made.
Support for the Center Party has fluctuated to a great degree in Ida-Viru County over the past year, at times even dropping below 30 percent. Local members of Center said the rise in February occurred due to local chapters' efforts and despite the activities of the party's central office.
"Chairmen of the party's chapters have lately been very critical of the party's activities in general. Our voters in Ida-Viru County responded to this, and we're talking about the Russian-speaking voters. They saw that we're capable of self-criticism and that we're aware of the errors that have been made. This has brought us from 21 percent to 35 percent," Marek Kullamägi, chairman of Center's chapter in Ida-Viru County, told ERR. He urged his colleagues in Tallinn to follow suit.
The overall drop in support is thought to be due to the party entering into a coalition with the Reform Party.
Attitudes towards the Center Party are also greatly affected in Ida-Viru County by the situation of the oil shale industry.
Erik Gamzejev, editor in chief of the regional newspaper Pohjarannik, said that the new government coalition's plan to first close down the oil shale industry and then decide how to proceed does not instill people with much confidence.
On Friday, new polling commissioned by ERR showed the Center Party's level of support across the country had fallen to 17 percent, making it the third most popular party after Reform and EKRE.
The level of support has also fallen among Russian speakers, the polling showed. The party used to have more than 80 percent support among this demographic, but it is now around 40 percent. During the previous Center-EKRE-Isamaa government Center was polling around 60 percent.
On Friday, Tallinn University's political scientist Tõnis Saarts said the Center Party should be worried about the upcoming local government elections in the autumn.
Editor's note (February 22): Political scientist Martin Mölder has said (link in Estonian) these statistics have been misrepresented and due to the small sample size and rate of statistical error it cannot be determined that there has been an increase in support for the Center Party in Ida-Viru County in recent weeks.
Editor: Helen Wright