Ratings: Reform passes 30 percent support mark

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Logos of the six largest political parties in Estonia. Source: ERR

While support for the coalition Reform Party and for the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) have both been rising – in Reform's case to beyond the 30 percent mark, the coalition Center Party has seen its support move in the opposite direction, and is now lower than at any time in recent years.

The survey, conducted by pollsters Norstat on behalf of conservative the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) found 47.6 percent of respondents pledging their support for the two coalition partners, Reform and Center, while 36.8 percent picked one of the three opposition parties – The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE).

A trend for EKRE outperforming Center has continued, with the gap rising to an all-time high of 6.3 percentage points since the last survey was conducted a week ago, Norstat says.

At the same time, Reform has pulled further ahead of EKRE in the past two weeks, with the gap now standing at 6.5 percent.

Center, which is in office alone in Tallinn, still has not recovered from the change in government in January which, while the party remained in office (with Reform), saw its leader Jüri Ratas having to step down as prime minister, following corruption allegations involving the party and a central Tallinn real estate development.

Center's support is lowest since Norstat started compiling its current weekly ratings, in early 2019, the company says.

Reform picked up 30.4 percent support in the latest poll, a rise on week of over one percentage point, EKRE polled at 23.7 percent, while Center received 17.4 percent – the party has a larger slice of the Riigikogu at present (25 seats out of the total 101).

The top three are followed by the non-parliamentary Eesti 200, on 12.6 percent, then SDE on 7.1 percent and Isamaa on 6 percent, again considerably lower than the 12 seats the party holds at the Riigikogu.

Under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation, a minimum of 5 percent of the vote is required to win seats in any of Estonia's three elections – local, Riigikogu and European.

SDE's support has recently fallen noticeably – over one percentage point in the past four weeks, Norstat says.

University of Tartu researcher Martin Mölder says the ratings demonstrate Reform has reversed an earlier decline in support even as EKRE's has been rising as well.

"At present … we can see that [EKRE's] support has increased by a little over 10 percentage points in more than six months, while the opposition, change of government and [EKRE's] return to the opposition have obviously had a good effect on it support," Mölder said.

EKRE had been in office with Center and Isamaa until January.

Center's support, unlike that of Reform and EKRE fell – ebbed by one percentage point – over the preceding week and is now at its lowest in two-and-a-half years.

Mölder said that: "At the moment [Center's support] is at 17.4 percent. Their support had dipped below18 percent in the summer of 2019, and has been below 20 percent or thereabouts since the fall of Jüri Ratas' government."

Mölder said that he did not think there would be any immediate recovery for Center.

"Whereas in the summer of 2019 there was a decline, this was followed by a rapid increase in support; but now, against the background of the preceding weeks, we are seeing a rather more stable slump," he added.

In addition to Tallinn, another Center stronghold, voters in Ida-Viru County, have also demonstrated a long-term moving away from Center, though generally not to the benefit of any particular party; voter turnout at the 2019 national and European elections was considerably lower than for the country as a whole.

Reasons for this include the decline of the oil shale industry, a regional staple, in the context of EU climate goals.

EKRE is one party which has been attempting to capitalize on this phenomenon. Despite being an avowedly nationalistic party – Center support in Tallinn and Ida-Viru County was traditionally high among Russian-speaking citizens and residents – EKRE has been playing on issues such as LGBT+ rights in an effort to tempt away often socially conservative Russian-speaking voters.

The next elections are to local government in October. While the presidential elections start earlier than that – at the end of August – these only involve the Riigikogu and, if needed, regional electoral colleges.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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