Journalists Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja discussed party ratings in the context of October local government council elections on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show. The hosts agreed that nationwide ratings are of little use when predicting election results as more depends on local candidates than parties.
Lepik described as interesting the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) finding traction in several new voter groups, including the Russian-speaking part of the population.
"[Pollster] Turu-uuringute AS also pointed out that EKRE has overtaken the Center Party with 41 percent of the vote in Ida-Viru County to suggest that they are popular among Russians, at least as far as their party brand is concerned," he said.
Lepik said it will be interesting to see whether EKRE and Eesti 200 will be able to match their success in the polls at elections. "Because one is a nationwide poll and the other concerns local governments, local mandates," he remarked.
"It is clear that Isamaa is moving up, Eesti 200 have managed to stay relevant and grow a little, while the Social Democratic Party is losing ground and support for Reform is also nothing to write home about," Lepik described.
Riikoja also said he doubts whether these standings will be reflected as such after elections.
"Such polls are solid in the context of parliamentary elections because parties and their platforms are worth more than individuals making up election lists there. Local governments work a little differently. Polls can rather be relied on in major cities that have a critical mass of respondents and where the average sentiment manifests more clearly."
The host said that while the ratings suggest Center is looking at an epochal defeat in its strongholds of Tallinn and Ida-Viru County, the party is systematically working with the Russian voter and a major disaster remains unlikely.
"The Center Party's brand and well-known candidates make it hard for me to believe they will be delivered the kind of defeat that is being suggested or that EKRE could gain that much ground, for example, in Ida-Viru County," Riikoja said.
He described support for Eesti 200 as another major question. "Everyone remembers Eesti 200 failing to make the election threshold [of 5 percent] after performing strongly in the polls in the run up to the previous elections."
"It is likely they will secure a number of seats on local councils, while I very much doubt we will see their current support rating translated into a corresponding number of mandates," Riikoja offered.
Lepik said that Eesti 200 lacks well-known candidates. "We want to see new people enter politics instead of the faces of athletes and actors, while conversations between journalists often reveal that no one is able to recognize people on Eesti 200 lists," he said.
Riikoja added that the party's political ideology also remains a mystery. "It is vague to say the least. It is also quite significant going into the locals without any previous political activity to show. What is the ideology the party is fighting to represent? Candidates are vying for attention, while we cannot really see common elements."
Indrek Lepik said that the Center Party needs to consider potential coalition partners in Tallinn as the days of it ruling the capital alone are almost certainly numbered.
Riikoja said that Center losing its hegemony in Tallinn is not a sure thing yet and strongly depends on whether Isamaa and Eesti 200 make the threshold. If not, a number of mandates will be redistributed which process will favor Center as the likely winner. "I would not say Center continuing to rule the capital alone is hopeless," he said.
The host added that even should Center lose its absolute majority, it sees no possibility of the party landing in the opposition. "The likelihood of a coalition against Center is minute at best."
Editor: Marcus Turovski