Support for the Reform Party has dropped to the lowest level of the past few years and the party only has a lead of 1.4 percentage points over the opposition EKRE, the latest poll by the Norstat and the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) shows.
The latest results show the Reform Party, the senior partner in the Estonian government coalition, is supported by 25.6 percent, the opposition Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) by 24.2 percent and the junior partner in the government coalition Center Party by 18.4 percent of voting-age citizens.
Support for Reform decreased by 1.5 percentage points in the past week and has dropped by 5.4 percentage points during its five-week decline. This means that support for the party is now at its lowest level since the start of 2019 when Norstat Eesti started polling party preferences.
Support for EKRE has grown by 2.3 percentage points in the past two weeks and Reform's lead over EKRE has decreased to 1.4 percentage points, the smallest it has even been in Norstat polls.
The top three are followed by the non-parliamentary Eesti 200 with 12.7 percent, opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) with 8.5 percent and opposition Isamaa with 7.1 percent. The Greens received 2.3 percent support, the same as the week before.
The two parties of the government coalition - Reform and Center Party - are supported by altogether 44 percent of voters and those of the opposition by 39.8 percent. The combined support of the coalition parties has never been so low for the current government coalition.
Researcher Martin Mölder said that if the current long-term trends continue, EKRE will replace Reform as the most popular party in a matter of months.
"The Reform Party was at the height of its popularity in the second half of 2019 when it had the opportunity to be the main opposition party during Jüri Ratas' second government. Starting from 2020, support for the party has, overall, rather declined than grown with a few prominent exceptions, such as the moment when [leader of Reform] Kaja Kallas formed the government. The Reform Party is at risk of becoming trapped between Eesti 200 and EKRE," Mölder said.
Support for EKRE had been stable from the 2019 election until the start of 2021 and only started growing when Jüri Ratas resigned as prime minister and give it to the Reform Party.
"The long-term trend for Eesti 200 has been upwards since the 2019 elections. They reached their highest support rating at the end of 2020 during discussions of a marriage referendum and have not gained any more ground since; however, they haven't lost any notable ground, either. The next two elections will be the moment of truth for Eesti 200 -- a moment to show that they are able to turn the general support and their promise of novelty into actual votes," Mölder said.
The Reform Party has never experienced such fierce political competition, Mölder said.
"On the opposite side, [the party] is being threatened by EKRE, who is a much more serious competitor than the Center Party ever could have been. On their own side, Eesti 200 has set up camp and has much potential to start gaining the support of Reform's core supporters," he said.
As soon as the local government elections are over, the parties will start preparing for the general elections in 2023 and the lines are being drawn.
"It is the current government's ability to exit the souring coronavirus vaccination process and cope with current problems that are greatly affecting people, such as the increase in the price of electricity, but also the opposition's ability to present themselves to voters as a reasonable and more affordable alternative that determine how these lines are drawn," Mölder concluded.
The results have been aggregated from the last four weeks of polling which took place between August 25 and September 20. A total of 4,001 citizens of Estonia of voting age were interviewed.
Editor: Helen Wright