The constituency of Lääne-Viru County is the smallest in Estonia, with just five Riigikogu seats available. As a result, after the upcoming Riigikogu elections, at least one of Estonia's major political parties will be left without a seat for the region.
Up until the 1999 Riigikogu elections, Lääne-Viru County and Ida-Viru County were combined as a single constituency, which was dominated by Edgar Savisaar. Savisaar received 14,320 votes in 1999 and 13,699 in 1995, a long way ahead of his nearest competitors in both cases. As this displeased some of Savisaar's political opponents, the constituency was divided into two, and from 2003 Lääne-Viru County and Ida-Viru County have remained separate for the purposes of Riigikogu elections.
However, in 1992, for the first free parliamentary elections in re-independent Estonia, Lääne-Viru County was placed in the same constituency as Järva County. Savisaar was also a candidate in that constituency at the time, sharing second and third place with Tiit Made after both won exactly the same number of votes (4,678). The most popular candidate by a distance was Juhan Aarem, with 9,341 votes.
This background is more than just a reminder of recent history as the electoral commission is now aiming to reunite Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru counties as an 11-mandate district in time for the next Riigikogu elections in 2027. This would potentially increase the chances of success for politicians from Ida-Viru County.
Pevkur is Reform's new frontrunner
In the 2019 Riigikogu elections the votes were split fairly evenly between the four largest parties - Reform Party won 23.7 percent, 21.4 percent went to EKRE, Isamaa gained 20.3 percent and Center took 19.9 percent of the vote. The SDE also had a nine percent share of the vote in Lääne-Viru County, meaning all five one mandate for the Riigikogu. The first four were constituency mandates, while SDE candidate Indrek Saar won a compensatory mandate.
Reform has shaken things up with its choice of frontrunner in Lääne-Viru County, by bringing in Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur. Pevkur ran in Võru, Valga and Põlva counties during the 2019 elections.
In the last Riigikogu elections, the Reform's frontrunner in Estonia's smallest constituency was Taavi Rõivas, who got 2,847 votes. Four years earlier, Rõivas stood in Estonia's largest constituency, Harju and Rapla counties, where he won a personal mandate with 15,881 votes. While four years later Rõivas' constituency was nearly three times smaller, his vote haul fell almost six times over. In October 2020, Rõivas announced that he would leave politics and concentrate on business.
Born and raised in Iisaku, Ida-Viru County, Pevkur is no stranger to the constituency of Lääne-Viru County, having graduated from Järva-Jaani secondary school in Järva County. According to Pevkur, his roots are in Lääne-Viru County, and his mother's birthplace is the village of Joodiku, now Vinni (formerly Laekvere) Municipality. Pevkur's family still keeps and maintains a farmhouse there.
Pevkur also stood as Reform's front-runner in Lääne-Viru County in 2011, receiving 3,784 votes. In 2015, however, the party was led in the region by Valdo Randpere (3,170 votes).
Pevkur is followed on the list by Katrin Kuusemäe and Indrek Kesküla. Riigikogu MP and former Mayor of Rakvere Marko Torm, has announced that he will not run in the elections next spring.
EKRE - will the Poolamets' double their seats in the Riigikogu?
Riigikogu MP Anti Poolamets, is EKRE's leading candidate in Lääne-Viru County, followed by Marti Kuusik and Aarne Mäe. EKRE's top three remains unchanged from 2019.
Fourth on EKRE's list is Anti Poolamets' wife Evelin Poolamets. It is also notable, that Evelin Poolamets is in fifth position on EKRE's national list. This may mean that, in addition to the potentially strange situation which may arise were she to be second behind her husband on the Lääne-Viru County list, it may be the case that she is not expected to gain a huge number of votes on the ground. Instead, her lofty position on the national list may help her to win a compensatory mandate.
Rudolf Jeeser, EKRE's district coordinator, told ERR that Evelin Poolamets ranks high on the general list because of the way it was drawn up. "First place is usually taken by the chair, then come the deputy chairs and, after that, the council chairs," Jeeser explained.
Isamaa elevates Saaremäe to poll position.
Lääne-Viru County has traditionally been a successful constituency for Isamaa, with results tending to be higher than the party average. During the 2019 Riigikogu elections, Isamaa received 11.4 percent support nationwide, in Lääne-Viru County it won 20.3 percent of the vote.
Last time around, Isamaa's frontrunner was Marko Pomerants with Üllar Saaremäe in second. However, Saaremäe won a seat in Riigikogu after gaining fractionally more votes than Pomerants (2,023 to 1,989). Therefore, on this occasion Saaremäe takes the frontrunner spot, with Pomerants running in second.
The other candidates on Isamaa's list in Lääne-Viru County are Sigrid Nuutre, Kert Karus, Einar Vallbaum, Tõnis Pruler and Alari Kirt. One mandate for the region is probably within the party's reach.
Center- Kotka and Varek top the list
Center's frontrunner in Lääne-Viru County is Riigikogu MP Siret Kotka. Kotka was also Center's leading candidate in the region in 2019, receiving 2,095 votes.
Second on the list is Rakvere Mayor Triin Varek, who gained 912 votes four years ago. Varek was also the most popular candidate in Rakvere during the last local elections, with 689 votes.
SDE needs a strong frontrunner
The Social Democrats are not in good shape in Lääne-Viru County. The party currently lacks a strong frontrunner with a recognizable name capable of challenging Pevkur, Poolamets, Saaremäki or Kotka. According to SDE chair Lauri Läänemets, the party's list is still being drawn up and will take some time to complete.
Mayor of Kadrina and leader of the SDE's Lääne-Viru County chapter Kairit Pihlak is one name that is certain to be on the list, along with former Rakvere deputy mayor Laila Talunik, who is currently advisor to Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson. Mayor of Rakvere Municipality Maido Nõlvak, will also stand as a candidate for the SDE in the upcoming Riigikogu elections.
However, to have a say in winning a mandate, the SDE need a strong frontrunner.
One name that the SDE leadership was secretly hoping would join their list in Lääne-Viru County was actor Ülle Licthfeldt, who recently won Estonian TV dance show "Tahtsud tansega."
Lichtfeldt is married to Indrek Saar, who has just announced his retirement from politics, and herself ran successfully for the Rakvere City Council in the most recent local elections. In doing so, Lichtfeldt gained more votes than, among others, her influential party colleague Rannar Vassiljev. While her candidacy would have given much-needed oxygen to the SDE, which according to some polls is likely to fall below the electoral threshold, Lichtfeldt has twice confirmed to ERR that she will not run. Clearly she is a woman of her word!
Eesti 200 led by Tarmo Tamm, who supports a liberal outlook.
Tarmo Tamm, a member of the management board and shareholder in timber processing company Peetri Puit, looks set to be Eesti 200's frontrunner in Lääne-Viru County.
Tamm notably supported his own party with a donation of €26,155 in the fourth quarter, but also gave €40,000 to Reform.
"I support a liberal world view. It seems to me that life is generally better in a liberal world than in a more closed environment," Tamm told ERR. According to Tamm, there is more new strength and freshness in Eesti 200 than in the Reform Party.
Tarmo Tamm is a very common name for a politician in Estonia. According to the Business Register, there are currently 10 different people with the name Tarmo Tamm, who are members of political parties. Register. The best known of these up to now is the former Minister of Agriculture, who is a member of the Center Party.
Triin Toming, who is on the management board of Metallituba OÜ and a member of the Haljala Municipality local government is also on Eesti 200's list, as is Aare Raam, a construction entrepreneur and local government official.
In the last Riigikogu elections, Eesti 200 was unsuccessful in Lääne-Viru County. Their best performer in the region was Annes Naan with 310 votes.
In the most recent local elections, Eesti 200 won one mandate in the Rakvere City Council (Rainer Miltop with 146 votes). In other municipalities of Lääne-Viru County, members of Eesti 200 stood as candidates on the lists of local electoral alliances.
Greens counting on activist Jaanus Nurmoja
Co-chair of the Estonian Greens Johanna Maria Tõugu said, that the party will be represented in Lääne-Viru County by former journalist and activist Jaanus Nurmoja, who is not a member of the party himself.
Nurmoja also ran for the Greens in Lääne-Viru County during the 2019 Riigikogu elections, earning 51 votes. The best result for the Greens at that time was achieved by Andres Jaadla, who took 106 votes.
Parempoolsed board member Tõnis Kons told ERR, that the party is yet to confirm its candidate lists. As a result, the announcement of Parempoolsed's regional frontrunners will take more time to arrive.
"The lists will probably be finalized in January, just before the official registration deadline," Kons said.
According to the latest survey by Norstat, nearly 33 percent of voters in Lääne-Viru County are planning to vote for Reform and nearly 27 percent for EKRE.
Center currently has 15 percent support in Lääne-Viru County, with 14 percent favoring Isamaa. As things stand, the SDE, Eesti 200, the Greens and the Right would all fall below the electoral threshold in Lääne-Viru County.
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