Party ratings: Center will not maintain its absolute majority in Tallinn

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Center Party will not win enough seats to maintain its overall majority in Tallinn, according to one recent survey. This outcome would mean the party would have to enter into coalition with another party or parties, though Center is still likely to remain the largest single party by council seats, by some margin, the report found.

The survey, commissioned by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues ((MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) and conducted by pollsters Norstat, found that the Center Party would get 35 seats out of 79 in Tallinn City Council – five short of the tally needed to maintain its absolute majority - Reform would get 14 seats and EKRE 11 seats. The other parties to make it to the council are Estonia 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), which would both get seven seats, and Isamaa, which would get five seats.

The survey was the only one of its kind in which  respondents were provided with a full list of candidates for their electoral district, BNS reports – the number of candidates nationwide exceeds 10,000, though this poll as noted focused on the capital.

The Center Party found 42.3 percent from Tallinn residents, aged 16 and older, the Reform Party by 17.6 percent and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) by 13.1 percent.

Martin Mölder, researcher at the University of Tartu's Johan Skytte Institute for Political Studies at the, said that while there are no major changes in the ratings of the parties in Tallinn compared to previous surveys, it is worth noting that the Center Party has improved its position a bit and its main rivals have seen their support decline, a claim borne out by the results from rival Turu-uuringute's recent poll.

Voter turnout numbers may be higher than earlier expected, though are unlikely to be anything exceptional, he said. "There has also been an increase in predictions in recent weeks as to how many people will go to the polls in Tallinn, but we are unlikely to see an explosion in turnout compared to previous elections."

Low voter turnout in the key Center stronghold of Ida-Viru County cost the party dearly at the 2019 Riigikogu elections.

Mölder said that, extrapolating from the survey's results, Center would win 35 out of 79 seats on Tallinn city council.

40 are needed to get a majority, meaning the party would need to find a coalition partner, if the forecast results were to come true.

Center could also gain from those parties, including Isamaa, who hover close to the 5 percent threshold needed to get seats in a given municipality, he said. "A lot depends on what will happen around the electoral threshold. If Isamaa were to lose a few percentage points of the vote and fall just below the threshold, and if support for other parties and lists below the threshold, such as the Greens, were to increase by one or two percentage points, the Center Party would probably automatically gain three more seats."

Isamaa have been campaigning hard in Tallinn, however, though picking up just a few percentage points in votes by parties missing the threshold could translate into the 40 seats Center needs to preserve the status quo.

At the same time, this was unlikely, Mölder added.

He said: "In the overall picture, only a few percentage points need to move in one direction or another. It may not seem like much, but it is still highly unlikely that all these changes will happen together and at once. Isamaa needs to fare exceptionally poorly in Tallinn and, at the same time, the Center Party and the Greens need to fare exceptionally well in order for single party power to re-materialize for the Center Party."

If support for Isamaa stays where it is expected to be, between 5 and 10 percent, and if the Greens also attain their expected outcome of a couple of percent, the Center Party would need to increase its support significantly over Norstat's results. Mölder put the percentage of votes required for Center at 48 percent.

The Norstat poll ran from September 24 to October 13 and polled 2,216 Tallinn residents, eligible to vote, over the phone initially then online following a screening process.

The local elections have the widest franchise of any of Estonia's three direct elections. The minimum voting age is 16, compared with 18 for Riigikogu elections, while foreign permanent residents of Estonia are eligible to vote.

Changes since the last municipal elections in 2017 include no dark period between advance voting and polling day, October 17 – the six-day advance period ends on Saturday, October 16 – and the lifting of a ban on outdoor electoral advertising in the weeks leading up to polling day.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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