Political scientist: Reform's mistakes have been EKRE ratings gift

Leader of opposition party EKRE Martin Helme with Prime Minister and Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas.
Leader of opposition party EKRE Martin Helme with Prime Minister and Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas. Source: Stenbock House.

The apparent, recent rise in popularity of the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has in part been helped along by mistakes on the part of the coalition Reform Party, political scientist Tõnis Saarts says.

A recent opinion poll placed EKRE ahead, albeit by a fraction of a percent, of Reform, whereas Reform have generally led the ratings conducted by most pollsters, both when they were in opposition, and after entering office in January.

Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" Wednesday, Saarts said that the recent developments came as no surprise to him.

"A trend of decline for the Reform Party a growth in popularity for EKRE has been visible since the spring," he said.

The margin of error, which in the case of the recent poll is 0.4, needs also to be taken into account he continued, adding that when this is done, the parties are more like neck-and-neck.

"Based on this, it cannot really be said that EKRE is the most-supported party. Instead, we are talking about a trend being this way and a situation today where we have two more-or-less equally popular parties."

The upcoming local elections will be the real litmus test, he added.

EKRE has been handed two presents, in the meantime, he said:  "One is that they fell into opposition. This allowed them to capture the imagination of some very disparate groups in society. The other gift relates to rising electricity prices and the green revolution. Life has increasingly offered them some favorable topics."

To this extent, EKRE and Reform are alternatives to one another, Saarts said.

"For everyone who does not back the current government of Kaja Kallas, EKRE has become the first and most logical choice," Saarts added.

The growth for EKRE has been gradual, he continued, noting that Reform's mistakes are as much to blame as anything.

"Despite the fact that we have actually done very well vis-a-vis the economy, and it would not be worth complaining much, the messages that have come from the government of Kaja Kallas have not been the most positive ones," he continued.

The Reform Party has not really had to give any positive and clear message to any segments of the electorate who are not their strongest supporters, he added.

At the same time, electoral success on October 17 will breed more success for Reform, and also its coalition partner, Center, Saarts went on.

"If the Reform Party and the Center Party perform better than expected, I believe the voter will notice and the ratings of both will improve," he said.

A recent survey by pollsters Norstat on behalf of conservative think-tank the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) put EKRE on 24.6 percent of support for the four weeks September 1-27, with Reform on 24.2 percent.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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