A drive by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to corner the Russian-speaking vote, particularly in eastern Estonia, was a bluff, Narva mayor Katri Raik told daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL). Electoral results there confirm this, Raik said.
"Indeed, it is very easy to be popular when you say you love oil shale, you hate Ukrainians and 'faggots'. Everything is simple, cut and dried and easy to understand. But where are those EKRE voices now?" Raik told EPL (link in Estonian).
"It was a cunning move by [former EKRE leader] Mart Helme and EKRE to talk to such a well-known politician in Narva, one who had worn the orange-black ribbon on May 9 (the date on which the end of World War Two was marked in the Soviet Union – ed.) and waved a bouquet of carnations. But people in Narva are not stupid," Raik continued, saying that the media swallowing of the bait that EKRE was a rising force in Estonia's easternmost city had puzzled her even at the time.
EKRE failed in Narva to even meet the 5-percent threshold needed to win seats under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation.
Ida-Viru County is traditionally a Center Party stronghold, though in recent years voter turnout and support for the party has waned, partly over the decline of the oil shale sector, a regional staple but one which falls foul of EU climate goals.
EKRE, an avowedly nationalistic Estonian party, had been seeking to appeal to those Russian voters who had become disillusioned with Center, particularly by focusing on social issues such as same-sex marriage.
Katri Raik had been with the Social Democrats prior to the local elections, but headed up an electoral alliance which won 15 seats in Narva, just one short of an absolute majority, while the alliance is seeking coalition with Eesti 200 and another electoral alliance, Elagu Narva.
If this crystallizes it means Center will also not be in office in Narva, a town they once dominated.
The Ukrainians Raik referred to are seasonal workers hired particularly in the agriculture sector in summer time, and also in construction, and another group which EKRE has latched on to in stirring up division, the perception being they are undercutting local labor. Among the Russian-speaking populace, the issue may have additional potential divisiveness given the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine, between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
Editor: Andrew Whyte