The Reform Party's drop in ratings and EKRE's simultaneous increase are tied to difficult circumstances in the economy, Kantar Emor survey expert Aivar Voog said on a special party ratings segment aired by ERR on Friday.
The coalition Reform Party had the support of 29 percent of voters in Estonia this month, down from 31 percent thereof in August. The opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), meanwhile, saw its support increase on month from 18 to 23 percent, according to the results of a poll commissioned by ERR and conducted by Kantar Emor whose results were published Friday.
Ranked third in popularity was the opposition Center Party, but with their lowest rating yet this year at 14 percent in September.
"This general backdrop, which includes insecurity," Voog explained. "Everything going on in the economy — rapid inflation, decreasing purchasing power — this isn't favorable for ruling parties' support. It gives opposition parties an opportunity, and EKRE has been the most vocal."
ERR journalist Urmet Kook said should the difficult economic situation persist and prices continue to rise, Reform and EKRE may see equal support within a couple of months.
Co-host and fellow journalist Indrek Kiisler noted that while Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) earned more attention in connection with foreign policy as well during the term of her previous government, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), the current government's foreign minister, has been more active in terms of public attention, and been in the picture more than Kallas.
Commenting on Kallas' extraordinary public address to the country on Thursday night, which was aired live by ETV, Voog said that it's very unlikely that it will have any sort of impact on Reform's rating.
Voog, Kook and Kiisler likewise took a closer look at the Center Party's low rating, particularly the historically low rating among Center's Russian-language voters.
According to September's poll results, support for the Center Party among Estonia's Russian-language voters had fallen to just 36 percent. Kook recalled that during the Savisaar era, when founding member Edgar Savisaar still served as party chair, Center commanded the support of 70-80 percent of Russian-speaking voters.
Voog acknowledged that they indeed have not seen this particular rating figure drop so low before. "Votes have been scattered," he said. "At the same time, there are also those who can't decide anymore. These are turbulent times, with voters drifting between various political choices. We may see an increase in passivity."
Kook noted that the Center Party's mixed messages regarding the removal of the so-called Narva tank, a Soviet monument outside of the city center, in August probably had an impact.
Kiisler, in turn, said that the Soviet monument removals are behind us now, and what lies ahead is the debate over the transition to Estonian-language education.
"This is where the Center Party could regain support," he said. "The Center Party has also said that they do not support taking away the right to vote in local elections from Russian citizens, which will likewise have an impact."
Dissatisfied voters turning to EKRE
Kook said that while the Center Party previously had the support of a lot of people who were dissatisfied with life and the government, many of these voters have since taken to supporting EKRE.
Voog agreed. "Both parties' supporters tend to have a conservative worldview," he said. "They're also both dissatisfied right now."
Kiisler noted that EKRE is also much more capable than Center of getting people out to protests, which is likewise a factor with a significant impact on their party rating.
Regarding the coalition Social Democratic Party (SDE), Kook said that replacing the party's chair has had a positive impact on the party. This February, the Social Democrats elected Lauri Läänemets, its new chairperson, replacing Indrek Saar; Läänemets has been serving as minister of the interior in Kaja Kallas' second government since June.
Voog noted that the Social Democrats are the second choice for a lot of supporters of more liberal parties, and could potentially have the support of 27 percent of voters.
Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder's decision not to serve as minister in the current government, meanwhile, isn't doing the third coalition party any favors, he continued. "I don't see Seeder in the picture," he said.
Parempoolsed bad news for Isamaa, Eesti 200
Commenting on the 1-percent debut of the newcomer Parempoolsed party, Kook said that this wasn't a very encouraging start, especially compared with the support Res Publica — whose former leading figures are now members of Parempoolsed — garnered in the early 2000s.
Voog and Kiisler, however, found this comparison unfair, considering how different Res Publica's rise was. Voog also recalled that Res Publica's support was likewise initially low after establishing their party and only began to see rapid growth ahead of the next Riigikogu elections.
The Kantar Emor survey expert said that the 1 percent of support recorded for Parempoolsed may have come at Eesti 200's expense.
Kiisler added that the founding of Parempoolsed is bad news for both Isamaa and Eesti 200 alike.
Editor: Aili Vahtla