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'Rahva teenrid': Price hikes and new Eesti 200 members bad news for Reform

Neeme Korv, Heidit Kaio and Urmet Kook.
Neeme Korv, Heidit Kaio and Urmet Kook. Source: ERR

Hosts of the Vikerraadio "Rahva teenrid" talk show found that former head of the Office of the President Tiit Riisalo joining the non-parliamentary Eesti 200 and the chance of former President Kersti Kaljulaid following suit constitutes a bleak outlook for the Reform Party the rating of which has already suffered in the energy prices crisis.

"Estonian voters have been partial to new political parties – even though Eesti 200 is not all that new – and given them strong mandates in the past. Reform gambling away its chances is wind in Eesti 200's sales," Heidit Kaio found.

Urmet Kook agreed, pointing to the Reform Party's difficult situation and the voters of the prime minister's party and Eesti 200 overlapping to a notable degree.

"Having kept a close eye on party ratings over the last four or five years, I would describe the ratings of Reform and Eesti 200 as communicating vessels. Both are supported by liberal, pro-European voters of whom there is a certain number in society," Kook said.

The ERR journalist said that polls show a link between the ratings of Reform and Eesti 200, with one shrinking as the other rises and vice versa. "Surveys where voters are asked for their second preference reveal the same trend: Reform voters say their second choice would be Eesti 200, while the latter's supporters would pick Reform," Kook said. "The Social Democratic Party (SDE) is also affected, having lost voters to Eesti 200," he added.

"Therefore, should President Kersti Kaljulaid also join Eesti 200, in addition to Riisalo who is more of a background player, it would be the worst news for Reform and to some extent also SDE," Kook found.

The week brought news that Kaljulaid's former office chief Tiit Riisalo has decided to join Eesti 200 and will be put in charge of its 2023 Riigikogu elections campaign.

"The important thing to note is that Kaljulaid has not joined any party yet nor confirmed whether she will go into politics. We should wait for her decision first. I also think it will be some time before she announces anything as she is bound to start taking flak as soon as she announces plans to join a party," Kook said.

Neeme Korv found that Reform and Eesti 200 voters cannot be lumped in together in everything. "Politics is not always a case of one plus one equaling two or a zero sum game. That sum will be greater at elections, meaning that Reform will lose fewer voters than Eesti 200 will gain come election time," he said.

Kaio pointed out that the Reform Party has so far enjoyed the support of the wealthier part of the middle class and entrepreneurs, while soaring energy prices have hit both groups. "Both the middle class and businesses require a measure of understanding today," she said.

The hosts also discussed tensions in and around the government over energy price compensation schemes but concluded that they are unlikely to lead to a government collapse.

Kook said he believes the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) that enjoys a rating of over 20 percent and plans to express loss of confidence in the prime minister has no desire to join the government today and aims to stay its course of protests and criticizing the current administration. Therefore, the only alternative for Reform would be to marry Isamaa and SDE, while neither might be interested a year before elections. That is also why the planned vote of no confidence will likely not pass, he found.

"I also think EKRE are not interested in joining a government today. It is much more fun to watch the Reform Party dig itself deeper into a hole," Kaio said. "Isamaa might be the only party willing to form a government today. The others are having too much fun," she added.

Korv agreed with his colleagues, adding that EKRE has painted itself into a political corner by failing to cooperate with other political forces.

Other topics covered included energy prices and the European security situation.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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