Political scientist: Helme's comments could affect Estonian voters' support

Tõnis Leht
Tõnis Leht Source: Laura Raudnagel/ERR

Former opposition party EKRE Chairman Mart Helme's comments supporting a cease-fire in Ukraine may affect Estonian speakers' support for the party, a political scientist said on Thursday.

Political scientist Tõnis Lehe told ERR's Russian service that EKRE will lose its Estonian-speaking voters if it makes similar statements in the future.

"Mart Helme's message that Ukraine should conclude a ceasefire with Russia as soon as possible means that Ukraine would have to do so under very unfavorable conditions. Essentially, to accept the loss of a very large part of its territory and give Russia breathing space, only for Russia to regain strength and resume its aggression," Leht said.

He said the comments were aimed at Russian-speaking voters and the comments could increase support for the party from this demographic.

But this comes with "big risks" and its Estonian-speaking voters' support could decline as a consequence.

The Estonian government supports Ukraine and does not support a ceasefire.

"We are not on Ukraine's side"

Helme said he supports a ceasefire in Ukraine "no matter how hard it would be for both sides". "At least people would no longer have to die. We are not on Russia's side and we are not on Ukraine's side, we are on the side of peace," he said.

After the comments were condemned by politicians, Helme backed down and said his words did not come out as intended.

"I didn't really say that on behalf of the party. I said it vaguely as "we". This "we" in this sense is not the party. And I admit that such a statement was inaccurate," he said.

Mart Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Party Chairman Martin Helme said he had meant to express concern about the conflict expanding to Estonia.

"I believe that Mart Helme sincerely wants peace, but what he meant [when he said that] EKRE is neither pro-Ukraine nor pro-Russia, he'll have to explain for himself," he said.

Martin Helme said the comments do not represent the party's general position.

EKRE vice-chairman Jaak Madison said he did not think the comments will have a long-term effect as Estonians are "intelligent" and understand when people accidentally say things they don't mean.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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