The support gap between the coalition Reform Party and the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has more than halved, to six percentage points, between August and September, according to a recent survey.
The research, commissioned by ERR and conducted by pollsters Kantar Emor, also found that the Center Party has been losing support, particularly among voters of "other nationalities", meaning Russian-speaking voters primarily.
Total support for the three governmental parties combined ran at 48 percent, and at 37 percent for the two opposition parties. In August, these figures were 49 percent and 34 percent respectively.
By party, Reform's September result of 29 percent was down from 31 percent in August and the weakest showing for the prime minister's party, by Kantar Emor's reckoning, since May.
EKRE moved in the opposite direction in September and is currently enjoying its highest support level of the year so far, at 23 percent, compared with 18 percent last month, Kantar Emor says.
Kantar Emor's head of research, Aivar Voog, commenting on the results, saying that the combination of rapidly rising inflation and the concomitant fall in purchasing power have led to a difficult situation for all three governmental parties: Reform, Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE).
Voog said: "In addition to the aforementioned, there is also an internal dispute going on in the government regarding the selection of a representative for the position of the European Court of Auditors."
The official nominee is current Finance Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform).
"Behind the rise in support for EKRE, in comparison with last month, is the general back-drop of high inflation and a general uncertainty, which favors the rise of a more vocal opposition party," Voog went on.
The bar chart below shows support percentages for September for, from left, Reform, EKRE, Center, Eesti 200, SDE, Isamaa, the Estonian Greens, the Parempoolsed and TULE.
Record low level of support for the Center Party among Russian-speaking voters
The opposition Center Party came in in third place, by Kantar Emor's reckoning, albeit with the lowest level of support it has seen so far this year, at 14 percent for September, compared with16 percent the previous month.
Even more noteworthy is that support has fallen for Center even more rapidly among Russia-speaking voters, a traditional bedrock for the party.
Aivar Vood said: "Over three years ago, the support for the Center Party as expressed among 'other nationalities' was at 80 percent, while during the last year it has changed between 40 and 50 percent.
"Now as of September, it has dropped to 36 percent, apparently related to the issue of the Narva tank, where the perceptions of the leadership of the Center Party and its former supporters are very divergent," Voog said, referring to the state's order to remove and relocate a World War Two-era Soviet-made tank, from Narva, where it had served as a war memorial for several decades, to the national military museum just outside Tallinn.
The Social Democrats (SDE) and the non-parliamentary Eesti 200 are neck-and-neck with 11 percent of support in the Kantar Emor survey, which represents a fall for Eesti 200, and no change for SDE.
Isamaa's support rose slightly, from 7 percent to 8 percent, August to September.
The remaining three parties all fell below the 5 percent-threshold needed to obtain seats in any constituency under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation.
The Greens saw a rise in support, from 2 percent to 3 percent, while the Parempoolsed, a newly-founded party clustered around several ex-Isamaa members and making its first ever appearance in Kantar Emor's survey results, polled at just over 1 percent, on a par with the TULE party. TULE arose from a merger between the former Free Party, which had half-a-dozen seats at the XIII Riigikogu, and the former Richness of Life party.
The bar chart below shows the three-month support levels for each party (Light blue= July, royal blue=August, dark blue=September).
Since the Parempoolsed, led by former Prosecutor General Lavly Perling, is a new phenomenon, let's take a closer look: Kantar Emor states that the party did better among voters in Harju County, the most populous region of the country and including the capital, polling at 2.3 percent here.
Respondents with a higher education (2.2 percent) and among higher income brackets (2.1 percent) also were more likely to pick the Parempoolsed, while the new party also did slightly better than average among the 35- to 49-year-old demographic (1.5 percent).
The Parempoolsed performed even better in the category of "second choice party", where they ran at 5 percent (please not the d'Hondt system is a pick-one-only method of holding elections, unlike the single transferable vote system, where voters would rank their choices).
Reform remained the most-supported party among Estonian respondents, though lower, at 34 percent, in September than in August (38 percent).
EKRE were second-most popular among Estonian voters, though in this case support rose, to 24 percent in September (compared with 19 percent last month).
SDE (11 percent) was slightly better supported than Isamaa (10 percent), Eesti 200 (9 percent) and Center (8 percent), among Estonian voters.
Among voters of other nationalities, as noted in effect Russian-speaking voters (only Estonian citizens are eligible to vote in next spring's general election), Center polled at 36 percent, a 10-percentage-point fall on the previous month.
EKRE were second in the other nationalities group, on 18 percent, followed by Eesti 200 (16 percent), SDE and Reform (13 percent each) and Isamaa (just 1 percent).
In Tallinn, Reform were most popular (29 percent), followed by Center (23 percent) and EKRE (14 percent), who were slightly ahead of SDE (13 percent) and Eesti 200 (12 percent).
Isamaa polled at 5 percent in the capital.
In Ida-Viru County, traditionally a Center heartland, the party also saw major setbacks, polling at just 12 percent and fifth overall, behind SDE (22 percent), Reform (21 percent), EKRE (20 percent) and Eesti 200 (17 percent).
The line graph below shows the relative changes in support levels for the major political parties in Estonia over the past year.
Kantar Emor's survey was ordered by public broadcaster ERR, polled 1,431 Estonian citizens of voting age (up to a maximum age of 84), split 50-50 via online and 'phone questionnaires.
The "don't know" respondents were removed from the results in order to make the poll resemble an actual election as closely as possible; overall 29 percent of respondents answered "don't know", down from 30 percent last month.
The next electoin is to the Riigikogu, March 5 2023.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Kantar Emor