EKRE leader: All the other Riigikogu parties created the current crisis

EKRE leader Martin Helme chatting to Reform leader and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
EKRE leader Martin Helme chatting to Reform leader and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Stenbock House.

Since the party is not tainted with the current crises facing Estonia, the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is in a strong position now, its leader, Martin Helme, says.

Speaking to ETV newscast "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Friday, Helme said that all four of the other represented parties have between them created the current situation.

Helme told AK that: "All the other parties, including the Center Party, which is currently in opposition, as well as Isamaa and the Social Democrats and the Reform Party, have actually constructed the crisis we are in, via their political choices over a long period of time.

"The Center Party has seen a very serious lack of trust, as they had had one of their own holding the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications portfolio - first Kadri Simson, then Taavi Aas. It is very difficult for them to say that we would do things better if we had the chance – because they have done things."

This means that EKRE is now the more vocal of the two opposition parties and are able to reap the benefits of the current crisis more than other parties.

Center's own Riigikogu chief whip Jaanus Karilaid told AK that Russian aggression in Ukraine was the major factor in the loss of support, particularly among Russian-speaking voters, a traditional party bedrock, and the overall, all-time low rating of 14 percent as announced by more than one recent survey.

Karilaid said: "The aggression started on February 24, and what Russia has been doing in Ukraine is extremely brutal, and inhumane. To explain all this, not to translate it... all these changes that are happening are undoubtedly difficult for the Russian-speaking community, but we will continue this mission. We are for us, all the people here [in Estonia] are our people and we will not leave them to the mercy of the neighboring country,"

Reform, too, has lost support since summer – the party's Riigikogu chief whip Mart Võrklaev told AK that there was no cause for concern at present, since domestic energy bill support measures recently implemented for the autumn and winter have not yet been reflected in party support ratings.

He said: "Since this relates to anxiety, maybe the same measures that we have put in place to help people in the winter, which will be implemented from October. Perhaps people are anxious, and they don't know how they will cope. It's up to us to work on that. This work has largely been carried out, these things will be implemented, the public can be assured of this."

The newcomer political party, the Parempoolsed, formed around a kernel of ex-Isamaa dissidents and polling at around 1 percent at the moment has a lot of work to do, Aivar Voog, head of research at pollsters Kantar Emor, told AK.

The party was only incorporated last month, while the support it has managed to pick up so far is likely at the expense of Eesti 200, formed in 2018 though still without Riigikogu representation, Voog said.

"At the moment, it can be said that [the parempoolsed] are a third choice party. If Eesti 200 is in competition with the Reform Party, the second choice for Reform Party voters would, vice versa, be Eesti 200, while the third choice would be the Parempoolsed. They must first be able to compete with Eesti 200, in order to pick up votes from the Reform Party as well," Voog said.

The gap in support between Reform and EKRE halved to just six percentage points between August and September, at least according to a recent Kantar Emor survey commissioned by ERR.

Of the five Riigikogu parties, EKRE is the longest to have been out-of-office, while the four registered non-parliamentary parties (Eesti 200, Parempoolsed, Estonian Greens, TULE) have never been in office at the national level (Eesti 200 won its first seats at last October's local elections). EKRE itself has only been in office at the national level once, since its formation a decade ago.

Center left office in early June after the prime minister expelled its seven ministers; EKRE left office in January 2021, having been in a coalition with Center and Isamaa since April 2019.

The national coalition alignments of the past five years are:

  • Center/SDE/Isamaa (to March 2019).
  • Center/EKRE/Isamaa (April 2019-January 2021).
  • Reform/Center (January 2021-June 2022).
  • Reform/SDE/Isamaa (July 2022-present).

The next elections are to the Riigikogu, on March 5 2023.

Editor's note: EKRE and Center could fairly be described as populist parties, while Reform and SDE are, broadly speaking, more internationalist in their orientation. Isamaa straddles that divide.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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