The Estonian Greens are aiming to surpass the two percent threshold in the 2023 Riigikogu elections to ensure that they receive state support to continue campaigning, says party co-chair Johanna Maria Tõugu.
"Our primary goal is to get state support," Tõugu told ERR show "Direct from the Newsroom" on Wednesday. "For a number of years, we have been operating purely on a voluntary basis, without salaries, paying for advertising and policy making out of our own pockets. To get this (state support), you have to collect at least two percent of the vote in the elections," she said.
Tõugu added that, the Greens' long-term goal is, of course, to make it into the Riigikogu. "However, to do that, we need to increase our skills and capabilities and to become more professional. If we just fly in (to the Riigikogu), we will also fly straight back out if we don't first have strong enough foundations," Tõugu said.
"The biggest target is to first get a state grant, and then, from that base, we can prepare to get to the Riigikogu in the future. Myself and others are ready to go there, but if we said now that we were aiming to get into the Riigikogu, to a lot of people, it would not seem credible. Of course, we want to get there, but we have to be realistic and that is also at the heart of our politics," explained Tõugu.
According to the Political Parties Act, any party that participates in the Riigikogu elections but fails to exceed the electoral threshold, receives an allocation of €30,000 per year from the state budget, if they manage to obtain between two and three percent of the overall vote.
Parties winning between three and four percent of the vote receive €60,000 per year from the state budget, while those gaining four to five percent get €100,000 per year.
As things stand, in order to campaign and pay the deposit required for candidates to run for election, the Greens have to raise the funds themselves. Tõugu said, that the deposit for an individual candidate is around €650, meaning, for a party to field a full list of 125 candidates, costs over €80,000. In Tõugu's view, this system acts as a mechanism, which prevents small and new parties from getting into politics.
When asked how the Greens are preparing for the current elections, Tõugu spoke about the party's marquee campaigns as well as its direct communication with voters in different constituencies. She also said, that there had been talk of some people changing their party affiliation when electoral lists were being drawn up.
Tõugu said that, while the party is trying to put out a full list, the main aim is to field high quality candidates, not to put people on the list just for the sake of it.
Environmental issues don't appeal to voters
Asked why support for the Greens had not increased, given the topicality of environmental issues, Tõugu admitted, that it was not a central issue for most voters.
"It is mainly older people who go to the polls and, for them, other issues are more important," she said.
"But, we don't need to get 80 or even 50 percent support. We just need to get two percent, increasing our support by 0.2 percent [compared to the last election]," Tõugu said.
Tõugu: I am from Generation Z
Discussing the leadership of the Estonian Greens following after the departure of former chair Züleyxa Izmailova, who joined Eesti 200, Tõugu said, that she he had had to make a lot of changes.
"(So far), it has been a rewarding job, which I am enjoying. I'm happy to be doing it, (even while) being a full-time student myself. People have joined us, who wouldn't have under the previous board. We've found people in new circles, such as entrepreneurs and from start-ups, who value sustainability. We are taken seriously and have paid off the debt that held us back for a long time. We have people joining our ranks who we are proud to have on board," she said.
Asked about the differences between herself and Izmailova, Tõugu replied, that she was part of a new generation. "I'm from Generation Z, I was born in 1998 and I represent climate activists directly. I represent the young people who are looking ahead to the year 2100. We have to embrace this world somehow. If the economy continues to grow like this, will we even have a world to live in? Young women are no longer having children because they don't believe in that future any more. Something has to be done to really, really change that. I don't see this endless economic growth as being possible."
Art attacks in the West did not harm Estonian Greens
Asked whether recent high-profile attacks on art objects by green activists in several Western countries to draw attention to climate issues had scared away potential Green supporters, Tõugu replied in the negative.
"On the contrary, there have been even more supporters. We have made our position clear - it is not okay to damage art. There was no damage caused to the art through these actions, and in fact, the actions themselves were a form of art," said Tõugu.
"If anything, there has been an improvement in relations with new constituencies," she said, adding that it may be because younger people are looking for a party, which is prepared to be bold in its actions.
According to Tõugu, the Greens' aim is to make more people see, that environmental issues, which may currently seem niche to some, actually affect everyone, just like those related to the economy or security. She also stressed, that the party's main focus is still on the environment and is directly informed by science.
Greens hoping Kangilaski will lead n Tartu
The Estonian Greens are also hoping to persuade Tartu deputy mayor Gea Kangilaski (SDE) into running as their leading candidate in the Riigikogu elections.
Last week, Greens co-chair Johanna Maria Tõugu, announced that she herself would run as the party's front-runner in Tartu. However, the Greens' co-chair told ERR on Wednesday, that if Kangilaski agrees to join, she will take over as the party's leader in Tartu, with Tõugu instead running in Tallinn's central district.
Kangilaski resigned from the SDE's Tartu Chapter in November, citing an unfriendly leadership culture and favoritism. Last week however, Kadri Leetmaa, who leads the SDE in Tartu, said that Kangilaski would run in the city of good thoughts alongside Krista Aru and Heljo Pikhof.
When asked to comment on the matter, Kangilaski kept her cards close to her chest, saying that she had not yet made a decision on whether to leave the SDE nor to run as a candidate on the Greens' list.
"At the moment, I'm not going to say anything about what I will or won't do, because I really don't know yet," Kangilaski told ERR.
Editor: Michael Cole