Center MEP: Low rating result of perception that party still in office

Yana Toom.
Yana Toom. Source: ERR

The current poor rating the Center Party has picked up in more than one political party poll recently is the result of a lack of information which has cause many to consider Center to still be in office as a governmental party, Center's MEP, Yana Toom, says.

Toom, who is also party vice-chair and was its front-running candidate in Ida-Viru County, a traditional Center heartland, in the last two Riigikogu elections in 2015 and 2019, said Friday that: "Just now I looked at my Facebook, and saw that someone had written that 'aha, you brought Kaja Kallas into power'."

Center was in a bi-partite coalition headed up by Kallas (Reform) from January 2021 to early June this year.

"People blame the fact that Jüri Ratas once resigned (in January 2021 - ed.) and since then things have kind of gone downhill. That's one of the reasons I've heard from people ," Toom told ERR.

"Another factor is that we don't have sufficient Russian-language media outlets where people can obtain adequate information. I know from our party colleagues who, for example, went out on to the streets of Lasnamäe with [party campaigning] tents, that some Russian-speaking people had approached them and had seemed to think that the Center Party is in office. People really don't know who the governing parties in our country are."

This all comes at a time when the identity of Russian-speaking Estonian citizens is the subject of a good deal of soul searching, given the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

"Many people associate this with what is happening right now, so to speak, in the Russian direction – with schools, Soviet-era monuments, the visa ban. All this creates a lively debate and some hardening of hearts. There are people who associate it with the Center Party, because the Center Party was in government for six years," Toom went on.

Finally, while Center, at least when in opposition, had traditionally been the first choice of the "protest voter: "Today we are not, and that probably plays a role as well," Toom said.

The situation with Ukraine in particular has further fragmented society along multiple fissures, Toom noted, while the current Reform/Isamaa/SDE has not done anything to heal these wounds, she said.

Three years ago, Center's support among "other nationalities", pollsters' speak for Russian-speaking voters, overwhelmingly, was at around the 80-percent mark, in the latest surveys it is around 36 percent, with that particular demographic – the bedrock of the party's support in fact.

Center last entered office at the national level under Jüri Ratas in November 2016, exiting as noted in June this year.

The party ruled Tallinn on its own for many years, but since last October's local elections has been in coalition with the Social Democrats (SDE), while in another key city, Narva, the party is in opposition.

Party leader Jüri Ratas is, however, Riigikogu speaker – a very significant post and arguably a more influential one even than that of prime minister.

The next election is to the Riigikogu, on March 5 2023. Only Estonian citizens may vote in general elections.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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