In Jõgeva and Tartu counties, only Reform is fielding the same candidate this time around as it did during the 2019 Riigikogu elections. All the other parties are backing candidates who, in 2019, were either lower down their lists, stood elsewhere or did not run at all and are now making their electoral debuts.
The Jõgeva and Tartu counties constituency is very specific, with people having quite different expectations of the Riigikogu. The list of Riigikogu MPs elected in the constituency over the years, has accordingly been quite diverse, from Villu Reiljan to Peeter Võ and Ene Ergman. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a mixture of "classics and modern pop," as journalist Enno Tammer used to say.
Since 1995, the seven-mandate constituency has covered both Jõgeva County and Tartu County, excluding the city of Tartu itself. Prior to that, in 1992, Tartu County was in the same constituency as Tartu City, while Jõgeva County and Viljandi County were a single constituency together.
In the last Riigikogu elections in 2019, Reform was the most successful in Jõgeva and Tartu counties with 27.2 percent of the vote. They were followed by EKRE with 22.4 percent, Isamaa (17.5 percent) and Center (15.4 percent). The SDE received the support of 9.3 percent of the vote in Jõgeva and Tartu counties in 2019.
EKRE put Kingo in top spot
The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has made a change from last year's list in Tartu and Jõgeva counties by giving its top spot to Kert Kingo. Kingo, who is a current Riigikogu member was fourth on EKRE's list in 2019.
EKRE's 2019 frontrunner Peeter Ernits, who won 3,846 votes last time out, in comparison to Kingo's 1,082, is now in second place. The decision to lead with Kingo is believed to result from her having more influence in the local EKRE chapter than Ernits.
Rudolf Jeeser, EKRE's district coordinator appeared to confirm this, by saying that Kingo had been elected to the top of the district list following internal party elections.
Reform led by Kruuse, Rõivas makes debut
Reform will be led by Rural Affairs Minister Urmas Kruuse, who retains the frontrunner position he held in 2019, when he won 5,398 votes. Kruuse, who has also previously served as mayor of both Elva and Tartu, is the only incumbent in Tartu and Jõgeva county who was also an incumbent ahead of the elections in spring 2019.
However, there are new names in the second and third slots on Reform's list. Luisa Rõivas, who joined the party on November 4, makes here electoral debut in second place, while third on Reform's list is former party secretary general Erkki Keldo.
Rõivas was born in Elva and she also attended school there, underlining her connections to Tartu County. Keldo, who is from the village of Lustivere in Jõgeva County, stood in the same constituency in 2019, collecting 722 votes.
Valdo Randpere, who was Reform's number two in Tartu and Jõgeva counties in 2019 is running in Tallinn this time around. Meanwhile Toomas Järveoja, third on Reform's list for the previous Riigikogu elections, finds himself in a lower spot on this occasion.
Center opts for new candidates
In the last elections, Janek Mäggi was first on Center's list, with Marika Tuus-Laul second in Tartu and Jõgeva counties. While Tuus-Laul got 2,095 votes and was elected to the Riigikogu, Mäggi managed only 1,671 votes and was left behind.
This time, Center's frontrunner is former Mayor of Tallinn and Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas, who lives in Põltsamaa, Jõgeva County. In 2019, Aas ran in the Mustamäe and Nõmme districts of Tallinn, gaining 3,925 votes.
Second on Center's list is Igor Gräzin, who is also the chair of the party's Tartu County chapter. Gräzin, who has a background in law and religion, ran on the same list and in the same position in 2015, but for the Reform Party, of which he was a founding member. At that time, he received 1,973 votes.
Other candidates on Center's list include Mayor of Jõgeva Municipality Angela Saksing, Elva Hospital Board Chair Peeter Laasik, Jõgeva Hospital head Peep Põdder, Director of Mustvee School Marianne Kivimurd-Tarelkina, and Max Kaur, who is a former mayor of Mustvee and current deputy mayor of Lüganuse.
Isamaa frontrunner is Aivar Kokk
While Isamaa has not officially decided on its candidate for Tartu and Jõgeva counties, it would be a great surprise if it is not Aivar Kokk. The Chair of the Riigikogu's Finance Committee is from Jõgeva and brought the party 2,536 votes in the last election.
Kokk, who has been involved in local politics since 1989 and held the post of Jõgeva County Mayor from 2004-2009, is one of the most influential figures in Jõgeva County, where he attracts the most votes. Kokk is also the majority stakeholder in Jõgeva County newspaper "Vooremaa." An even better result for Kokk is potentially hampered by his having a low profile in Tartu County.
Raivo Tamm, who was fourth on Isamaa's list for the last elections, narrowly ahead of Kokk on 2,583 votes, is now expected to stand in the Mustamäe and Nõmme districts of Tallinn.
Other candidates expected to be on Isamaa's list include Reet Alev, Aare Anderson and Juhani Jaeger.
Eesti 200 counting on reputation of Irja Lutsar
Professor of virology Irja Lutsar will be Eesti 200's frontrunner in Jõgeva and Tartu counties. While Lutsar's own first preference would have been Tartu, party vice-chair Kristina Kallas is a shoo-in to be frontrunner there.
In an interview with ERR at the beginning of October, Lutsar hinted that she may run in South Estonia, however, Eesti 200 already has a candidate in Võru, Valga and Põlva counties in the form of Igor Taro. Thus, Jõgeva and Tartu counties were the most logical for Lutsar, who also preferred not to stand in certain districts in Tallinn.
Eesti 200 is counting on the good reputation Lutsar earned in the local community as head of the Scientific Council during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. When it comes to politics and elections, however, Lutsar is in new territory, meaning her potential vote count is difficult to predict. "It could go really well, but it could also go very badly," said one local insider.
Märt Meesak, who gained 76 votes four years ago as a candidate for the Estonian Free Party, is considered highly likely to run for Eesti 200 this time around. Jaak Laineste, who stood in the city of Tartu during the 2019 elections, receiving 153 votes, is also expected to stand in Jõgeva and Tartu counties on this occasion.
Social Democrats likely to go with Kastre mayor as frontrunner.
After the failure of the last Riigikogu election with Eiki Nestor (the veteran Social Democrat stood in a non-traditional constituency and got 1,491 votes, which was not enough to win a seat in the Riigikogu), the SDE have had four years to come up with a better option. However, there appears to be no perfect solution, nor candidate with a secure mandate in sight. Despite that, there is still time.
Above all, the SDE lacks a big name candidate with nationwide recognition. However, as the Nestor experiment showed, there is little to gain from sending just anyone out to run in the provinces.
Mayor of Kastre Municipality and Chair of the SDE's Tartu County chapter Priit Lomp, appears most likely to be the party's frontrunner in the region. Lomp will be supported by Mayor of Tartu Municipality and a long-standing local government leader Jarno Laur.
Laur assured ERR that he will definitely not be the SDE frontrunner in the 2023 elections, and that he believes Priit Lomp would be a good choice for the position. Laur received 729 votes in Tartu Municipality during the most recent local elections.
In the last local elections, Laur received 729 votes in Tartu Municipality. That's a strong result, particularly with Laur having stood as a candidate on the list of a local electoral alliance.
Priit Lomp also got a decent result in his own municipality during the local elections (393 votes), likewise as the leader of a local electoral alliance rather than as an SDE candidate.
When it comes to the Social Democrats, it is worth mentioning, that several of the candidates who were successful in the last local elections did not run under the SDE's name. That may say something about the new makeup of the party, which could end up paying off in a big way come the Riigikogu elections in March.
Greens - Marko Kaasik
Co-chair of the Estonian Greens Johanna Maria Tõugu, told ERR that the party will be represented in Jõgeva and Tartu counties by fellow party co-chair Marko Kaasik along with Hans Leonhard Kõrgesaar.
Parempoolsed board member Tõnis Kons said, that the party has not yet confirmed its candidate lists, and so it will take a little more time before regional frontrunners are announced.
"The lists will probably be finalized in January, just before the official registration deadline," Kons said.
According to the latest Norstat survey, 31 percent of voters in Jõgeva and Tartu counties would vote for EKRE and 30 percent for Reform.
Support for Center in Tartu and Jõgeva counties is at 13 percent, Isamaa 11 percent and Eesti 200 10 percent. The SDE currently have three percent support.
However, these results primarily reflect the popularity of the parties' brands. The selection of specific candidates can have an impact on the success of parties in different constituencies, depending on their individual strengths or weaknesses.
More information about the 2023 Riigikogu elections from ERR News' can be found on our dedicated page here.
Editor: Michael Cole