Ratings special: Pro-Kremlin stamp benefited EKRE rating
The recent ratings success of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) is partly down to other political forces' attempts to label them a Kremlin party, Kantar Emor expert Aivar Voog and ERR journalists Indrek Kiisler and Urmet Kook found.
The monthly Kantar Emor poll commissioned by ERR has the Reform Party in the lead in October with a rating of 28 percent, down one point since September.
Support for EKRE grew to 25 percent in October, helping the national conservatives to further close the gap with Reform. EKRE, the September rating of which was 23 percent, have reached 25 percent just once before – July of 2021.
The Center Party and Eesti 200 are tied on 14 percent in October, with support for the former unchanged since last month. Eesti 200 have found three points since then.
Voog said that Eesti 200's rise clearly comes at the expense of the Social Democrats (SDE). "We can draw this conclusion because the ratings of other parties changed less than those of Eesti 200 and SDE. Their voter bases overlap," Voog suggested.
He added that Reform's support waning is also playing into Eesti 200's hands.
Urmet Kook asked Voog whether Eesti 200's rating also benefited from their recent general assembly and the fact Lauri Hussar was elected chairman.
"It was being center stage in media coverage, which electing a new leader made more attractive," Voog replied.
Talking about support for SDE, Indrek Kiisler said the party has been sending confusing messages, adding that Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas' clear position on reducing logging volumes could improve matters.
Kook said that the care home reform as the Social Democrats' main election promise has become their Achilles' heel. "The result is that instead of Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson (SDE), we have Reform's Social Protection Minister Signe Riisalo in charge. SDE has failed to capitalize on their main promise. They have simple given it to their coalition partner, which is a sign of weakness," Kook suggested.
Voog added that SDE's reputation is also one of muddying the water in energy matters.
Kook pointed out that support for the Center Party among non-Estonian speakers has dropped from 80 percent back in the day to just 39 percent in October. At the same time, EKRE already have 21 percent of the vote in that group, with Voog suggesting the national conservatives could take it up to 29 percent.
The Kantar Emor expert added that over 40 percent of non-Estonian speakers did not have a clear political preference in October.
Indrek Kiisler suggested that EKRE's recent success could also be the result of other political forces trying to label them as the Kremlin's party. "They have done themselves a disservice in this," he said.
Voog offered that EKRE's criticism of the EU has also worked.
Kook chimed in, suggesting that converting potential support into additional Riigikogu seats could be a problem for EKRE as they simply lack candidates non-Estonian speakers would find attractive.
He added that SDE and Center will have strong candidates in Ida-Viru County should Katri Raik and Yana Toom decide to run in the district.
Voog added that voters tend to lean conservatively once elections roll around and vote for people they know.
Talking about Center's rating, the experts agreed that victory is probably out of reach in 2023.
"They will likely not come in second either. They will be positioned where Isamaa is today, become the pointer of balance," Kiisler suggested.
"I do not quite agree," Kook said, adding that Center's situation is not good and the party stands to lose the few Estonian voters it has left.
Coming to Reform, Kook said that Keit Pentus-Rosimannus' European Court of Auditors candidacy has been a source of negative attention that could linger for a while should the Prosecutor's Office decide to launch a criminal investigation.
But Aivar Voog put less stock in the matter. "Pentus-Rosimannus is not the party leader. She is not a symbolic figure to the same extent. It will have little effect," he remarked.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski