Estonia's political parties start 'serious' election campaigns in new year

The Riigikogu's main debating hall, here having been requisitioned for the day by the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper).
The Riigikogu's main debating hall, here having been requisitioned for the day by the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Following President Alar Karis' calls to the electorate on Monday to not allow the March general election to degenerate into a two-horse race, and to be wary of hollow promises on the part of politicians after votes, ETV news show "Aktaalne kaamera" (AK) took stock of all the registered political parties, with just under 14 weeks to go until polling day.

The parties say they will start their serious campaigning after the Christmas and New Year break, but in many cases have unveiled slogans, candidate list size and what they see as the main electoral issues.

ERR News has listed these, in reverse alphabetical order by party.

Social Democratic Party (SDE)

SDE leader and interior minister Lauri Läänemets said improvements to living conditions is the most important issue going into the campaigning season.

Läänemets told AK that: "Prices have become more expensive, so wages have to rise, to enable people to cope better."

"When wages rise, pensions do too, as the pension system is linked to wages," he went on.

SDE says it hopes to win 15 seats on March 5, polling day (up from the current 10).

The party, which is in office with Reform and Isamaa, recently said  "Palgad peavad tõusma" (English: "Wages must rise"), if not an official slogan, was a watchword ahead of the election.

Reform Party

The senior coalition party Reform is running with the slogan  "Kindlates kätes Eesti" (English: Estonia in safe hands).

Party board member and Reform's group chair at the Tallinn city council chambers Kristen Michal told AK that the slogan: "Essentially sums up the main theme of this election, namely security, economy, energy, people's livelihoods, support for Ukraine in the current war, as well as taxation and other issues."

Michal would not be drawn on how many seats the party might win at the election. Reform currently has 34 Riigikogu seats, the largest of any party; its leader, Kaja Kallas, is prime minister.


Estonia's newest party, which only registered in October, also focused on economic matters and standards of living.

The party's leader, former prosecutor general Lavly Perling, told AK that: "It is vital for us that people retain their jobs and that they can get bread on the table, at a decent wage."

"We have to talk about the economy. Our expectations are simple - we believe that the Parempoolsed will be in the next parliament," Perling went on.

The party has not run in any election having just been incorporated, though technically it has one MP already, following the defection of Siim Kiisler from Isamaa.

The party says it will run a full list (meaning 125 candidates), in all 12 constituencies, at the general election.


Isamaa's chair, Helir-Valdor Seeder, said that the main election topics are at the heart of life itself.

He said: "This whole circle of issues, which concerns energy prices, not to mention the major choices facing Estonia - renewable energy, energy from oil shale, nuclear power and so on. These are real options."

Isamaa should head up a coalition following the election, Seeder added, without putting a number on potential seats. The party currently has 11 seats, and is in coalition with Reform and SDE.

Estonian Greens

The Green Party (Rohelised) says that a smart approach to development is important.

Party co-chair Johanna Maria Tõugu said: "We chose 'Tark areng' (English: 'Smart development')  as our slogan. 'Smart' in the sense that we have to manage Estonia in an intelligent way, but at the same time with a development that reaches each and every person. /.../ We would definitely like to get into the Riigikogu; there is time to boost our support."

The Greens have no Riigikogu seats at present though have held a seat in past Riigikogu compositions.

The party says it will run a full, 125-candidate, 12-constituency list.

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)

The opposition EKRE is heading into the general election under the slogan: "Päästame Eesti" (English: "We will save Estonia").

Party chair Martin Helme said making Estonia more prosperous, plus immigration, were the most important issues facing the country.

He said: "Either Estonia will remain a nation state, or it will not - where Estonians will become a minority here, and the Estonian language will become some kind of third-rate language, after English and Russian."

Helme set a benchmark of 30 seats as the dividing line between a good result and a not so good one, at the March general election.

The party currently has 19 seats.

Eesti 200

The non-parliamentary Eesti 200 is looking to win its first ever Riigikogu seats, having narrowly missed out in 2019, just a few months after it was constituted.

Party leader Lauri Hussar said: "Eesti 200 is going into the elections with the expectation that it will get a strong result, and we definitely want to participate in the formation of the next government. /.../ Security, both in terms of defense and in terms of coping with the future, is the central issue at these elections."

Center Party

The opposition Center Party is running on a slogan  "Julgelt inimeste heaks" (English: "Boldly for the good of the people").

Party leader and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas told AK the main issues would be: "Energy prices, VAT on foodstuffs. The second issue I would point out is pensions – a hike in these.

"People today need real and concrete steps regarding both the energy crisis and pensions," Ratas went on.

Center says it hopes to get a minimum of 25 seats at the XV Riigikogu. The party won 26 seats at the last election, lost one after the defection of Raimond Kaljulaid, and regained one this year after Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart entered the Riigikogu.

The TULE party was not reported on, and it is not clear if the party is running in the general election.

The head of state, President Alar Karis, signed the resolution which officially sets in stone the general election date, at which the XV Riigikogu composition will be determined.

In his ensuing address to the nation, the president cautioned against settling for "simple promises" from all parties and added he was "nonplussed" about talk of the general election being but a two-horse race between the two parties which currently place highest in most opinion polls, namely Reform and EKRE. 

Polling day for the 2023 Riigikogu election is confirmed as March 5, 2023, preceded by several days' advance voting period.

One major change since the last general election in 2019 is a lift on the ban on electoral advertising in the weeks leading up to the election.

Only Estonian citizens may vote in a general election.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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