The Conservative People's Party's (EKRE) rise in recent months relied on stray votes, but since the party also has a loyal core voter base, its rating is unlikely to fall further, ERR journalists Anvar Samost and Urmet Kook and Kantar Emor expert Aivar Voog found.
The ruling Reform Party was the most popular in December with 30 percent of the potential vote, down one point from a month ago.
The opposition leader EKRE clocked a rating of 18 percent, which is some way off its October result of 25 percent. The party had 22 percent in November. EKRE's rating was around 18 percent this summer.
The Center Party has managed to gain some ground in the last two months for 16 percent, which puts EKRE within their reach. Eesti 200 is in fourth place, with its rating of 14 percent unchanged for the last three months in the Kantar Emor poll. Reform's junior coalition partners the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa are in fifth and sixth on 9 percent and 8 percent respectively, up from November's 8 an 6 percent.
EKRE's rise random in nature
"EKRE's rise since September relied on so-called stray voters who change their mind often. We're back to the party's regular result now. Their recent supporters included 66 percent those with a clearer preference. This suggests the slump has bottomed out," Voog said.
The expert said that EKRE lost more ground among Russian-speaking voters. "Their interim rise there was random," he suggested.
Anvar Samost pointed out that EKRE made the news criticizing Marko Mihkelson, with MPs Peeter Ernits and Kalle Grünthal taking the stage instead of party leader Martin Helme.
"It is possible that this rather garish rhetoric startled Estonian-speaking voters. Martin Helme has not been visible. This rather personal criticism took EKRE voters by surprise and not in a good way," Samost suggested.
Urmet Kook said that EKRE's temporary boost with Russian voters could have followed remarks to Russian language media by deputy chairman Mart Helme, according to which he is on the side of peace, rather than Russia or Ukraine.
The Reform Party as guarantors of security
Hosts of the ratings special found that Reform's rating has remained intact as energy prices have been less draconian than forecast.
Samost said that Reform are either consciously or subconsciously seen as guarantors of [national] security.
Kook remarked that the ruling party has considered this aspect in its candidate lists. Its regional lists are topped by former Defense League commander Meelis Kiili in Ida-Viru County, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur in Lääne-Viru County and security expert Eerik-Niiles Kross in Võru, Valga and Põlva counties.
Samost added that the national security strategy also paid off for Reform at the 2015 Riigikogu elections.
Talking about Center, Kook suggested the party has realized its shortcomings, adjusted its messages and concentrated on the topics of the Estonian language education transition and Russian citizens' voting rights.
Asked what Center's hesitant voters might do, Aivar Voog said that elderly people and those sporting a lower education level simply won't vote.
Social Democrats short on strong candidates
Urmet Kook said that Eesti 200 and SDE have few core or entrenched voters at 25 and 22 percent respectively. "This means that three-quarters of their current backers might change their minds at any point."
Voog added that SDE's rating has traditionally been higher than their election result. This tends to be the other way around for Reform's other junior coalition partner Isamaa.
Kook remarked that the Social Democrats find themselves in a difficult situation as they are having trouble setting up well-known frontrunners and candidates in general.
"They lack strong candidates. For example, Center's lists include people who are bound to take a certain number of votes no matter what."
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov