While outdoor campaigning could potentially get hindered by any spike in coronavirus infections, Estonia's major political parties plan to launch their election drives for October's polls next month, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Thursday.
The parties say they plan to start street canvassing, which would include street-side tents where the public can liaise with party workers and candidates and pick up party promotional goodies like pens, balloons etc., ahead of the Jaanipäev (midsummer) break, June 23-24.
Outdoor advertising placards will also start appearing.
Reform and Center not yet saying if running in all 79 constituencies
Erkki Keldo, Secretary General of the Reform Party, told AK that: "We have our local leaders in the major cities and municipalities. I really expect us to remain in power in at least as many municipalities as we are today."
Reform is particularly dominant in Tartu city, which is one of 15 urban municipalities in Estonia. There are a further 64 rural municipalities who will also all see voting to their councils.
Many local governments are made up of coalitions of the major parties, and often smaller, area-specific local groups which also often form alliances with established parties, though one exception to this is the largest municipality, Tallinn, where the Center Party has ruled with an absolute majority for many years.
Andre Hanimägi, Center's secretary general, told AK that: "Between 400 and 500 [Center] candidates will be running in Tallinn as things stand. At the previous [October 2017] local government elections, the Center Party ran 508 candidates. Once again, the Center Party expects a very strong list in Tallinn."
EKRE say running in most constituencies
Reform and Center have not yet committed to running in all constituencies, though the latter is initiating a raffle-style promotional campaign, AK reported.
Meanwhile the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) says it will run in 73 of the 79 municipalities – the party is currently represented in 39 of them.
Rudolf Jeser, EKRE's regional coordinator said: "We will definitely aim to get on those councils we have a presence in today, and via a coalition on that council, we aim to occupy key positions."
Eesti 200 is contesting its first ever local election, and says it will run in over half the constituencies.
Eesti 200 running in first-ever local elections
Party board member Lauri Hussar and former Postimees editor-in-chief Lauri Hussar said: "Eesti 200 could be an open platform for community movements and also for those people who are active in the community. We do not see that these people should always be actual members of the Eesti 200."
Formed in 2018, the party has contested one general and one European election, but failed to win a seat in either.
The Social Democratic Party (SDE), who for example hold the mayoral seat in the eastern town of Narva (Katri Raik), have said they will exercise discernment in which constituencies they will run in in their own right and which they may join electoral alliances with other parties or groups.
SDE Secretary General Rannar Vassiljev said that: "I think that the main debate in these elections will revolve around what Estonian society should be like after the crisis. This is partly related to local elections, while many issues related to the Riigikogu elections."
The next general election is due in 2023.
Foreign citizens who are resident in Estonia eligible to vote
Isamaa, meanwhile, says it too has started its campaigning.
"Campaigning events, if we can call them that, start off with making [candidate] lists. You go to the people, you talk about your views, about your goals. In that sense, this started. And at some point, the tents will come out," Heiki Hepner, the party's deputy chair, told AK.
Other parties putting up candidates nationally will include the Greens and TULE.
As with the general and European elections, parties run ordered lists of candidates. Once a candidate clinches a seat, her or his excess votes are redistributed to the next candidate on the list who has not bagged a seat under their own steam. In this way, many candidates get seats who only got a modest number of votes in their own right.
As a result, parties often run "decoy", big name candidates, who then do not sit in that municipal council, with the intention of attracting votes for the party as a whole.
All Estonian residents - not just Estonian or EU citizens - are eligible to vote in the local elections, which take place on October 17, preceded by an advanced voting period of several days.
Electoral rules require parties "go dark" in their campaigning around six weeks before election day, meaning electoral advertising is barred.
Editor: Andrew Whyte