Experts: Electoral debates likely to be more cautious than in 2019
Political debates in the few weeks remaining ahead of the March 5 Riigikogu election may be more cautious in nature than in the past, some political experts say.
Formal election debates begin next week, a period when, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday, politicians tend to reflect societal attitudes, and also set up the framework for subsequent debates.
Political activist Tarmo Jüristo told AK that a situation where clear lines between the Reform Party and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) are being drawn, with the former party's voters tending to see the latter's as not fully understanding things as they are, or even being incapable of understanding.
Conversely, Jürosto said: "In general, the more conservative people on the fringes tend to think of liberals as being 'immoral'."
Another factor behind the caution may relate to parties weighing up who they may end up in coalition with, after the elections.
Mari-Liis Jakobson, lecturer in political sociology at Tallinn University, told AK that: "If we think about the past four years, every party has held governmental responsibility - almost all, save the non-parliamentary parties."
"As a result, [the parties'] world view is now a little bit more nuanced. Pushing very hard on someone can lead to others ending up in the same position, and they then have the possibility to also attack your activities in office," she went on.
While Center entered office with EKRE and Isamaa after the 2019 election, this was superseded by a Reform-Center coalition from January 2021. After Center were expelled from the coalition in June last year after weeks of impasse, Reform was in office alone for a month-and-a-half, before the current Reform/Isamaa/SDE coalition entered office.
Previous elections have at the same time shown that vocal debates do not lead to a fall in support for the parties taking part, AK reported.
Political scientist Tõnis Saarts told AK that: "Having harsh words with each other and attacking one other is part of our political sphere."
"Generally speaking, politicians know the limits; how far they can go, and so I can't think of any example from Estonia where what was said during the campaign period would have led to any politician being punished at the polls," Saarts went on.
"It's rather the case that this attracts attention and can even bring plus points [to a campaign]," he added.
However, Jüristo said that arguing with each other can also often distance people from politics and can lead to an overall fall in voter turnout.
He said. "For many voters - and this is something we can also see with our own focus groups – any over-the-top aggression and putting each other down on the part of politicians can be viewed as repulsive."
Overall voter turnout at the 2019 Riigikogu elections stood at 63.7 percent.
ERR News is live-linking to a political panel discussion in English, featuring leading politicians running at the March 5 election, on Wednesday, February 1, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Estonian time, organized by AmCham and the Foreign Investors Council of Estonia.
Editor's note: The changed security situation is likely also to have had an effect on the tone, approach and topics in pre-election discussions and debates this time around and, while the energy price levels and overall inflation remain, policies have been passed by the current coalition including a universal price of electricity, and, more tangentially, a hike in support benefits for larger families. The international price of natural gas has also fallen.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera