Parties will campaign in front of polling booths in October

Balloons in the various party political colors, stacked up in a corner of the Riigikogu building.
Balloons in the various party political colors, stacked up in a corner of the Riigikogu building. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

October's local elections are the first in Estonia where parties can advertise outdoors right up until polling day. While the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) says it has been receiving applications to set up party campaign tents directly outside polling stations, the secretaries general of the two largest parties, Reform and Center, say this will neither skew results nor cause problems between the parties, or with the public.

Guido Pärnits, head of the Ülemiste shopping mall in Tallinn, told ERR that the center would avoid political parties having campaign stalls indoors in the days leading up to polling day.

"We have already ruled out those type of LHV things on ordinary days," he said, referring to an Estonian bank which often uses salespeople who approach shoppers while they pass by.

"This is because these type of direct sales are not suitable for a proper shopping mall. That would be more like a Turkish bazaar," Pärnits went on.

A change in electoral law now permits outdoor campaign advertising up to polling day. An exception is within the premises of polling stations.

While 16 polling stations will be set up in shopping malls themselves, there is nothing to legally stop parties advertising within the shopping mall as a whole.

The secretaries general of the two largest parties, Reform and Center, both say that advertising and campaigning is likely to be kept outside, since shopping malls as a whole tend to avoid politics.

Parties use marquees set up on the street and staffed by party workers as well as leading candidates, engaging the public and giving out marketing goodies.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) spokesperson Urmas Tuisk told ERR that the jostle for campaigning space is starting to heat up as October approaches.

Tuisk said: "Whoever registers first has priority over a location. If someone else wants the exact same spot, we will ask the second applicant to contact the first and negotiate for themselves. The most important thing is communication."

Multiple outdoor marquees can be registered at the same address, but obviously cannot be set up on precisely the same spot, Tuisk noted.

Reform's secretary general, Erkki Keldo, said that there had not been any kind of turf war between parties in the past, nor would there be this year.

Keldo said: "I would dare to express a hope and desire that most, if not all, members of the public still have an electoral preference for polling day. It is my personal belief that there will also be a record share of e-votes."

Keldo said party campaign tents fit alongside each other nicely. He also said that his party does not centrally control how its candidates campaign; this is up to regional party branches and their candidates to organize.

Center Party Secretary General, Andre Hanimägi, said that: "I think there will still be candidates from the different parties on the streets daytimes and evenings, and you will still be able to replenish your pen stocks and balloon supplies, and all of that, on the last day," referring to the marketing materials political parties often hand out.

At the same time, picking up a free pen on polling day is not likely to have a significant effect on the election results, Hanimägi said. "It's more like making yourself visible, maybe even to give a last word of thanks, to thank someone for going to the polls."

Center is setting up 18 party campaigning tents close by the 14 polling stations in north Tallinn alone, Hanimägi said.

Close to 100 polling stations will be set up across the capital.

The law was recently changed to allow campaigning right up until polling day. Previously, a "dark period" came into effect around six weeks before election day, when outdoor advertising was banned.

This led to attempts by parties to workaround the ban – for instance Center once had electoral advertising clearly visible at street level, through the windows of its Tallinn headquarters. Since the advertising hoardings were indoors, this was perfectly legal.

Online advertising, a burgeoning area was not banned during the dark period.

Polling day at the local elections is October 17, preceded by a six-day advance voting period.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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