The list of political parties in Estonia grew shorter on October 30, with the Estonian Independence Party deleted from the business register. The party's downfall started after the 2014 European Parliament elections when its program promised to get to the bottom of chemtrails.
The Estonian Independence Party that grew out of Jaanus Raidal's Estonia of the Future Party in 1993 would have celebrated its 30th anniversary next year.
The party's last chairman Sven Sildnik (pseudonym (:)kivisildnik – ed.) described it as a logical outcome for an underfunded and undermanned party. Sildnik said that the initiative and motivation were simply lost at one point, adding that the party's three-person board was made up of its only active members. This despite the fact that the party still had 1,771 members in late summer.
Sildnik concluded that in the end, lacking a media outlet broadcasting its views, such as Uued Uudised for EKRE, proved fatal.
"That seemed to be the final nail. I believe it is also a problem for the Center Party today. If you lack your own media outlet, the others will supply their vision, with yours staying inside your own head only," the now former chairman said.
Estonian Independence Party chair from 2005-2015 Vello Leito said that the party's end was as tragic as it was unavoidable.
"Liberal democratic forces cannot abide such a party with such a program. They cannot allow their sworn enemy to continue drawing breath," Leito said.
Ratings peak 1.3 percent
The Estonian Independence Party never made the Riigikogu. It took just 0.5 percent of the vote in its most successful 2003 general elections. The party's candidates list had just 37 names, including musicians Peeter and Piia Paemurru, Raul Sepper and current head of the Estonian Association of Professional Musicians Henry-David Varema.
The party's best election result came at the 2014 European Parliament election when it took 1.3 percent of the vote. Candidates included Sildnik, then chairman Leito, as well as Juku-Kalle Raid, Merle Jääger and Emil Rutiku.
The party's election program from the time included such items as "immediately leaving the jurisdiction of the European Union," "ending childish confrontation with Russia," "NATO will never defend Estonia," and "there is no Ukraine conflict, just the Orange Revolution No. 2 started by the European Union after Ukraine refused to sign the association agreement" etc.
University of Tartu political scientist Rein Toomla said that it seemed to be the position of party chairman Vello Leito that Russia was doing what it had to do geopolitically following its initial Ukraine invasion in 2014.
Chemtrails erode credibility
Leito has not changed his views. The former chairman, who now styles himself an apolitical geopolitical analyst, told ERR that the collective West is dedicated to destroying Russia but will not succeed as Russia's economic and military advantage is too great.
Leito also said that Russia has not annexed the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine. "There has been no annexation as the 2014 coup in Ukraine unleashed a garish campaign of ethnocide aimed against Russians," he said.
Sven Sildnik said that the party found it difficult to repeat its 2014 record result, partly due to the death of frontrunner Hardo Aasmäe and partly because of management mistakes.
He added that the party's 2014 European Parliament election promise to investigate the makeup of chemtrails on an official level ended up impacting its credibility. Sildnik said that while he no longer believes that, chemtrails seemed like a plausible conspiracy theory at the time.
"Sensible people said that you cannot be all there if you keep going on about chemtrails. It was the most emotional and chaotic thing that happened for me. It bothered many people I know," the former chairman shared.
Eurosceptic party ahead of its time
Rein Toomla said that the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) has also overshadowed the Independence Party by now. While Sildnik is running in EKRE ranks in the 2023 Riigikogu elections, EKRE members Anti Poolamets and Henn Põlluaas have done the same for the Independence Party in the past.
Vello Leito said that former EKRE chair Mart Helme sought to join the Independence Party in 2003 but was found to be too vague in his convictions by the board.
Poolamets, who has also headed the Independence Party, said that the party's views were simply ahead of their time. "It was too soon then. We saw the niche for a Eurosceptic party (EKRE – ed.) created a decade later. It is a paradox when a third of the population votes against joining the EU, while the parliament only sees a single anti-EU delegate, Reform's Igor Gräzin, vote against the Lisbon Treaty."
Poolamets described its Euroscepticism as the Independence Party's greatest value. "It will go down in history for seeing what was coming," he explained.
"I have said on numerous occasions that Estonia could have survived only based on the Independence Party's program," Vello Leito also said, adding that the Estonia of today is little more than a EU union republic.
Political scientist Rein Toomla said that there is nothing tragic about small parties not making the Riigikogu. He suggested that their existence reflects people's preparedness to participate in politics and do it differently from established parties.
"There will always be people who feel that the major parties are stagnated and need a push. Creating a smaller party of some sort is often seen as a way to deliver it," Toomla said, recalling Leito commenting on the Independence Party's failure to make the parliament as Estonians not being too keen on independence.
Estonia has 12 officially registered political parties after the Estonian Independence Party was deleted from the business register. Those not currently in the Riigikogu are: Eesti 200, Parempoolsed, Estonian Greens, Party of the Future, Estonian United Left Party, Estonian Freedom Party – Farmers' Assembly and the People's Unity Party (currently in the process of liquidation).
Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski