Journalists Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja talked about the potential effects of the Conservative People's Party's (EKRE) move to allow anti-vaccination activists to run in their ranks at the upcoming local government council elections on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show.
"It seems that EKRE have quite consciously brought these people out to run in their ranks and go after the vote of people who have perhaps never participated in elections," Lepik said, adding that EKRE election lists sport anti-vaccination candidates in several places.
Lepik pointed to 2016 when the Brexit referendum and U.S. presidential elections that favored Trump were both attributed largely to efforts to find the so-called forlorn who had not participated in political processes so far. "However, they were found, promises were made and they cast their votes. And that is what tipped the scales," he said.
Riikoja said that anti-vaccinationists are most numerous on EKRE's election lists but can also be found in Isamaa and the Center Party. "Let us not forget Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center) who can be described as anti-vaccination. We have a government minister who refuses to be vaccinated and gives relatively confusing accounts as to why," Riikoja remarked.
He described it as a matter of taste whether it is acceptable to pick up votes this way. "EKRE need to thank Reform and Center for the new government here as they would be unable to pull something like this were they still part of the coalition. /---/ They couldn't even let MP Kalle Grünthal carry on making what I deem to be relatively confusing, incoherent and unsubstantiated statements," Riikoja said, adding that it is, nevertheless, part of democracy.
"EKRE have the right and opportunity, and the fact they're doing it shows, on the one hand, their political wisdom and pragmatism, while it also shows the weakness of other parties, especially those that form the coalition. They have allowed these things to run away from them, unto EKRE being able to profit politically," Riikoja found.
The host added that the candidates in question will not give EKRE a major advantage. "We are talking about a percentage point or two here as most of these people are unknown, they are not vote magnets by any stretch."
Lepik emphasized that every point counts at elections and support needs to be secured where possible.
"Political scientists have been saying for some time that support for EKRE is capped at one-fifth of the vote. Recent polls suggest it is now on the other side of 20 percent. Managing to add just a few points could mean one or two extra mandates in the Riigikogu or local councils that could in turn mean the difference between forming a coalition and merely participating in one, not to mention the opposition. In that sense, every little bit helps," Lepik reasoned.
Riikoja also recalled that when EKRE first appeared, it was suggested support for the national conservatives would peak at 10 percent. Next, those estimates jumped to 15 percent, then 20 percent, whereas there is now talk of support for EKRE being capped at 25 percent.
"What I find more interesting is that looking at public statements by heads of the party, they need to figure out a way not to become the next Center Party – a pariah no other political force wants to work with," Riikoja said. Finding itself as such would keep EKRE from power and making good on its promises.
"The heads of EKRE are clearly looking for a way out of this dilemma, whereas the only way to do that is by dialing back the party's scathingly populist rhetoric somewhere," Riikoja emphasized.
The hosts also discussed the coronavirus situation, compliance with measures and plans to lift them, vaccination, President Kersti Kaljulaid's last major Riigikogu speech in which she proposed a stronger parliament, President-elect Alar Karis' staffing choices and a political disagreement turned physical in Rakvere.
Editor: Marcus Turovski