Mart Helme, Peep Peterson, Toomas Kivimägi, Andres Metsoja, Andrei Korobeinik and Peeter Tali are slated to top their respective' parties Pärnu County candidate lists in the 2023 Riigikogu elections next March.
Up for grabs in Pärnu County (Electoral District 12) will be 7 mandates, or seats, in the 101-seat Riigikogu.
Pärnu Mayor Romek Kosenkranius, currently an independent, isn't running for election on a single party's list, although he claims all of the bigger parties except the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) have reached out to scout him.
EKRE brimming with confidence
Topping opposition EKRE's candidate list in Pärnu County will be party deputy chair Mart Helme, who with 9,170 votes earned a personal mandate in the previous Riigikogu elections in 2019 as well as set an all-time record number of votes for any one politician in the Pärnu County electoral district.
Helle Kullerkupp and Alar Laneman earned second and third place at the party's internal elections. This order was somewhat surprising, as Laneman earned 1,554 votes in Pärnu in the most recent local government elections, while Kullerkupp earned three times less with just 509. This may provide insight, however, into where the lines of power lay within EKRE's regional Pärnu chapter.
Also running for election within EKRE's ranks is Sven Sildnik [artist name (:)kivisildnik], who was previously a member of the Estonian Independence Party.
EKRE itself is brimming with confidence and banking on earning three of the district's seven available mandates, but is subtly hoping to bring home four. The latter, however, would indicate a complete flop by two or three of Estonia's bigger political parties and is unlikely.
Social Democrats banking on 'outside player'
While EKRE was the biggest winner in Pärnu County in the previous elections, the coalition Social Democratic Party (SDE) was the biggest loser. They earned just 2,780 votes combined in the electoral district, or 6.8 percent of the vote — and 9.8 percent nationwide.
Now they're placing Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson at the top of their Pärnu County candidate list in hopes he'll lead the party to better results in the electoral district. Even just one mandate from Pärnu County would already count as a major win for the Social Democrats.
The SDE didn't have much choice but to have Peterson run in Pärnu County despite his strong background in Tartu, as the party lacks a strong local leader of its own.
Having to dispatch a candidate from the nation's capital to Estonia's summer capital is nothing new for the Social Democrats; SDE's list was topped in 2019 by Indrek Tarand (1,061 votes, not elected to the Riigikogu), in 2015 by Indrek Saar (1,944 votes) and in 2011 by Marianne Mikko (2,093 votes).
Joining Peterson on the SDE's Pärnu County list will be director Gerda Kordemets, who joined the party this September. The party's third candidate in the electoral district will likely be family doctor Madis Veskimägi.
Reform pinning hopes to previous top candidates
The coalition Reform Party's candidate list in Pärnu County will once again be topped by current MP Toomas Kivimägi and Annely Akkermann, who was recently sworn in as minister of finance. Kivimägi and Akkermann each earned a district mandate in the previous elections, with 5,202 and 2,397 votes, respectively. Two mandates in Pärnu County will certainly be doable for Reform.
Also to run for election there is former top athlete Jüri Jaanson, who with 1,139 earned a compensation mandate in the previous Riigikogu elections in 2019.
Gonna be hard for Center without Simson
The opposition Center Party is in a tougher spot in Pärnu County than it was in the previous Riigikogu elections, as European Commissioner Kadri Simson won't be running anymore. With 5,741 votes, Simson earned an electoral district mandate in the previous elections, and had been a primary vote magnet for the party before that as well.
The party is counting first and foremost on Andrei Korobeinik and Marko Šorin to carry them in District 7. In the previous Riigikogu elections in 2019, Korobeinik ran for election in Tallinn's District 1 — Haabersti, Põhja-Tallinn and Kristiine — but in last fall's local government elections earned 1,495 votes as the Center Party's top candidate in Pärnu.
While the Center Party has talked about the possibility of earning two mandates in Pärnu County, actually making this happen will prove difficult without Simson, and the party will more likely take one mandate there.
Eesti 200 hopeful over Pärnu native, Kalevipoeg's Dome
The nonparliamentary Eesti 200 were unsuccessful in Pärnu County in the previous elections. While the newcomer party had earned 4.4 percent of the vote overall in 2019, bringing them close to the Riigikogu's 5 percent election threshold, in Pärnu County they only saw 3.4 percent support. Kadri Tali brought in the most votes for the party with 872.
Eesti 200 has announced that strategic communications and national defense expert Peeter Tali will top the party's list of candidates in Pärnu County in the 2023 Riigikogu elections. Tali himself is a native of Pärnu, although he had spent years living and working elsewhere. He told regional paper Pärnu Postimees that he's now living in the city's Raeküla neighborhood and travels to Tallinn for work.
How popular Tali may prove to be and to what extent "Kalevipoeg's Dome" will be a draw to voters is a big question for the party itself. And whether Tali will in fact be Eesti 200's top candidate in Pärnu County hasn't yet been decided either. Other possibilities include Sulev Alajõe and Kätlin Joala.
Tali's advantage over either, meanwhile, is his renown and his expertise on a security matter that currently speaks to society.
Isamaa hoping for repeat success
Topping the coalition Isamaa's list of candidates in Pärnu County next March will be Andres Metsoja, who with 2,228 votes earned an electoral district mandate in the previous Riigikogu elections.
Behind a recent change in power in Pärnu in which Center was replaced in the ruling coalition by Isamaa was the consideration that this would pave the way for winning an additional €20 million in funding from the state budget for the construction of a third bridge in town. So it seems to be going, and this will mean major currency for Metsoja going into the elections, despite it not having been his work alone.
Also running alongside Metsoja will be Pärnu County branch chair and Tori Municipal Mayor Lauri Luur, who had been the party's number two pick in the electoral district in the previous elections and earned 663 votes.
Tõnis Kons, a board member of the newcomer Parempoolsed, said that the party hasn't yet confirmed their final candidate lists, which is why it will still be a little while before they announce their top picks by electoral district.
"Our final lists will likely be published in January, right before the lists are officially registered," Kons specified.
Johanna Maria Tõugu, co-chair of the nonparliamentary Estonian Greens, said that Liina Reimann will top the party's Pärnu County candidate list next March.
In 2019, the Greens were entirely unsuccessful in District 12, with party frontrunner Krister Kivi earning 246 and all other candidates combined just 52 votes.
The 2023 Riigikogu elections, in which all of the Estonian parliament's 101 seats are up for election, will be held on Sunday, March 5.
MPs are elected to the Riigikogu for a four-year term.
Editor: Aili Vahtla