Political parties firm up top Pärnu County general election candidates

Pärnu city (NB the bridge at foreground is an artist's impression of an ongoing project), the largest town in the county of the same name.
Pärnu city (NB the bridge at foreground is an artist's impression of an ongoing project), the largest town in the county of the same name. Source: Janno Poopuu

Estonia's major political parties have announced their top three candidates in the Pärnu County constituency, ahead of the March 2023 Riigikogu election.

There are seven seats at stake in Pärnu County, and there, as in the other 11 constituencies nationwide, parties run their best-known candidates in the top three – for reasons which will be explained below.


The coalition Reform Party is heading to the elections with a "striped" list in Pärnu County, meaning the ordered list will alternate between women and men candidates.

Irina Talviste, head of the party's Pärnu County region and herself running fourth on Reform's line-up, said: "Everything looks very good with the list /.../ it is complete. We have [MP} Toomas Kivimägi, [Finance Minister] Annely Akkermann and [MP] Jüri Jaanson in the top three places."


Isamaa, also in office, has: "Seasoned candidates and newcomers, regional chair Lauri Luur said.

"[MP and Pärnu city councilor] Andres Metsoja is in the first position, [former journalist and former MP] Ela Tomson made a very good result last time and is certainly in the second spot, while I am in the third place."


The other coalition party, the Social Democrats (SDE), say they need more time to finalize their list for Pärnu County, though the top two candidates are known.

Jana Ristimets, SDE's regional branch chair, said: "We have the Minister of Health and Labor, Peep Peterson, in place as the number one candidate, while the second-placed candidate is for sure [journalist] Gerda Kordemets.

"As a fresh face, Rein Kontus, former mayor of Põhja Pärnu County, who has worked for the rescue service for a long period of time, will certainly make the list, though we do not know in what position yet," Ristimets went on.


The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), in opposition, says its list was already on October 1, in order to give candidates time to prepare for the polls in a constituency where it traditionally performs strongly.

EKRE's party chief Helle Kullerkupp said: "The top candidate is former party chairman, and current honorary chair, Mart Helme. The party's general meeting selected me as number two, while the third-placed candidate is retired general Alar Laneman, who is also currently an MP."


The Center Party, also in opposition, is running well-known politician both nationally and in Pärnu city, Andrei Korobeinik.

Korobeinik told ERR that: "The party board confirmed today the top three, with myself, [MPs] Marko Šorin and Enn Eesmaa in the first three spots. We have nine candidates altogether, from whom there are several quite surprising names, but we will introduce these over the next two weeks."

Eesti 200

The non-parliamentary Eesti 200 party also promises to run a full list and to bring some major names.

Kätlin Joala, head of party's regional branch, said that while the list was still being finalized: "I can single out three names who will definitely be there: These are myself [journalist and former military officer] Peeter Tali and [fromer MPSulev Alajõe. We have a team with experience, knowledge and the ability to see the future."


Parempoolsed is also still putting its list together.

Party leader, former prosecutor general Lavly Perling, said that the party was: "A little behind the others due to their objective circumstances; everything takes time," adding that she will announce the list when she is in the Pärnu area itself.

Parempoolsed is Estonia's newest political party, having only been incorporated in October.

The general election to the XV Riigikogu takes place on March 5, 2023, preceded by a period of advance voting.

The Pärnu County constituency is the 12th (of 12) electoral districts in Estonia and include Pärnu City, whose population makes up nearly half the total 88,000 for the whole county.

Why do parties announce their 'top three' candidates?

Under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation, political parties must list their candidates in a set order, in each constituency.

Candidates at the top, or higher up the list, once they clinch enough votes to win a seat, will then distribute these excess votes to the candidates lower down the list, who have not won a seat in their own right.

In this way, parties hope to maximize the number of seats they can win, one way or another, hence the drawing-up of lists being a highly strategic process, topped by high-profile "vote magnet" candidates.

This sometimes lends itself to parties parachuting in candidates to constituencies with which they have only tenuous links, or running candidates high up the list who cannot, or will not, take up the seat if elected (for instance if they enter government – ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu – or if they are an MEP or local government leader).

In this case, the candidate vacates the seat they won, and it goes to the next candidate on the same ordered list who had not already won a seat.

If the high-profile candidate later returns to the Rigiikogu, for instance if they leave office with a change in government, this "benchwarmer" MP must vacate the seat.

Hence the ordered lists registered by parties remain relevant right the way through the four-year life-span of a Riigikogu composition.

Riigikogu MPs may hold local council (but not government) seats, and around half of them do indeed do that.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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