Center Party MPs' stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which saw ten of the party's 25 Riigikogu deputies declining to a vote on a statement of support for Ukraine early on in the conflict, were behind a recent, significant drop in popular support for the party, its leader, Jüri Ratas, says.
Nine MPs were absent from the chamber for the vote, which took place at a special Riigikogu sitting late on on February 23 and on the eve of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, a move which Ratas said was: "Not the right step. The correction came on February 25. And even then, the people of Estonia gave their reaction to it in short order."
The tenth MP was Mailis Reps, who was present for the vote but abstained.
A recent poll put Center firmly in fourth place by popular support, behind its coalition partner, Reform, which has 34 Riigikogu seats, opposition party the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), 19 seats, and Eesti 200, founded in 2018 and which has no Riigikogu seats.
Whereas Reform polled at 25.8 percent, and EKRE and Eesti 200 around the 20-percent mark, Center picked up 16.6 percent of support, the lowest level of support it has seen since market research firm Norstat started its weekly polls over three years ago.
The bringing up of the issue of the cooperation agreement between the Center Party and United Russia, signed in 2004, and its eventual termination, was also a factor, Ratas, who is also Riigikogu speaker, said.
On February 23, the Riigikogu passed a statement expressing support for the Ukrainian people and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state.
February 25 – the day of the invasion was a national holiday in Estonia – saw several developments as the coalition came together to condemn Russia's actions. These included the banning of several Russian-language TV channels which had long been broadcasting Kremlin propaganda specifically for Baltic audiences, and the sending of additional armaments and other aid to Ukraine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte