Analyst: Share of voters without preference could mean surprises

Elections debate 2019.
Elections debate 2019. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While the regular Norstat poll suggests that support for the Center Party has grown, that for EKRE fallen and Reform's stabilized, the growing share of voters without a preference renders these positions uncertain, Martin Mölder writes.

Recent results of the regular poll by NGO Institute of Societal Studies and Norstat Eesti AS give the ruling Reform Party 33.2 percent of the potential vote, opposition leader the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) 26.1 percent and the Center Party 15.3 percent. Non-parliamentary Eesti 200 sports a rating of 8.7 percent, Isamaa 7.2 percent and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) 6.5 percent among citizens with a clear political preference.

Mihkelson scandal did not impact Reform rating

University of Tartu political scientist Martin Mölder said that the photographs scandal of Reform MP Marko Mihkelson has hardly affected the ruling party's rating.

The analyst said that Reform are on a strong footing and have improved their situation in the last month and a half. While it seemed realistic that EKRE could match the prime minister's party in terms of support as recently as late September, Reform have now opened up a comfortable seven point lead.

However, this should be taken with a grain of salt, the analyst warned, as voters without a clear preference made up 45 percent of respondents in November, while it is usually around 25-30 percent.

"A notable part of these undecided voters might be activated and move behind a party on the eve of elections, which is bound to change the ratings landscape," Mölder suggested, adding that Reform likely has far fewer supporters in absolute figures than it did after Kaja Kallas' first government was formed.

Support for EKRE up among Russian-speakers

Commenting on the rating of the national conservative EKRE growing among Russian-speaking voters and falling among Estonians, which translated into a slight overall decline in November, Mölder suggested the reason could be MP Mart Helme's remarks about him being pro-peace and not pro-Russia or pro-Ukraine regarding the war. "But we can call it major speculation. It is very difficult to say what exactly is causing these changes."

Center gaining ground among Estonians

The analyst said that Center has seen its rating bounce back recently, while it is too soon to say whether than constitutes the party having managed to reverse a longer trend.

Center's support among Estonian-speakers has bounced back from 7 percent in October to 10 percent in November.

Because the share of undecided voters is especially high among Russian-speakers, the number of Center supporters in that group has also fallen in absolute figures, Mölder said, adding that support for Center is the lowest it has ever been in that voter group.

Eesti 200 has failed to turn their fortunes around

The political scientist remarked that support for Eesti 200 started falling when the Ukraine war started, which trend has not really stopped.

"Their support is lower today than it was throughout 2021. The last time Eesti 200's rating was this low was in the fall of 2020, before the marriage referendum debate saw it skyrocket," the politologist said.

Things not looking up for Isamaa and SDE

"As concerns [Reform's junior coalition partners] Isamaa and the Social Democrats, they are locked in a battle for fifth and sixth place," Mölder pointed out, suggesting that the two parties need to work the hardest to try and mobilize voters before the March elections.

Greens and Parempoolsed's chances of making the Riigikogu slim

Mölder said that neither the Estonian Greens nor the newly founded Parempoolsed (Right-wingers) parties have a realistic chance of being elected to the parliament in 2023.

"It is perhaps a little surprising that the Parempoolsed are off to such a modest start and their rating – virtually on par with the Greens at around 1 percent –suggests making the Riigikogu is rather unrealistic for them, at least at the 2023 elections," Mölder suggested.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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