Gallery: EKRE council approves 2023 Riigikogu election program
The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) on Saturday unveiled its manifesto for the March 5 Rigiikogu election
The party's council held a meeting at the Hestia Hotel Europa in Tallinn, where party leader Martin Helme presented the 2023 parliamentary election program.
EKRE was one of the last major parties to present its manifesto.
Candidate lists for all parties were locked in this week, while EKRE started its campaigning somewhat earlier than most of the other parties, ie. before Christmas.
The party council that met Saturday consists of its chair, its honorary chair, Mart Helme, vice-chairs, its 21 MPs and regional representatives, as well as one representative of every 300 party members.
EKRE was in office with Center and Isamaa April 2019 to January 2021, and has been in opposition since then.
A change in Estonian electoral law - which permits outdoor advertising and canvassing up to and including polling day, whereas in the past this had been banned from around six weeks ahead of the election - may be one reason why campaigns are being fully started a little later than at previous Riigikogu elections.
EKRE: An end to Reform's 'dismissive' attitude towards the people
This election campaign so far has been comparatively muted, with few hard issues putting the parties at loggerheads, possibly in part due to the changed security situation, and bearing the changes to electoral law noted above
However, EKRE's program as reported by ERR draws the battle lines, with a populist approach, particularly between it and the sitting Reform/SDE/Isamaa coalition.
EKRE pledges an extraordinary pension payment to retirees who receive below the average, and would raise the state pension to €1,200 per month within four years.
The party's press service says this would compensate for soaring inflation.
Party leader Martin Helme states that the Reform-led government under Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has brought Estonia to the situation where it has the highest rate of inflation in Europe.
Helme said: "Estonian pensions, on the other hand, are still among the lowest in Europe. People who get a below-average pension have to choose between food and heat; they cannot buy their medicines. This below-average pension in Estonia goes to a quarter of a million people."
On the other hand, Helme went on, if Reform reenters office after the election, with the other two liberal-wing parties, namely Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats (SDE), then this economic situation would worsen accompanied by what Helme called "the Reform Party's dismissive attitude towards ordinary people."
Continuing to take actions counter to the Constitution, falling birth rates, rising immigration and the curbing of free speech were among the other concerns which had led to EKRE's electoral slogan, "Päästame Eesti!", ("We will preserve Estonia").
Sources of funding not outlined in program
At the same time, while the electoral program contains numerous support rise and tax cut pledges, how this will be financed is not clearly set out, ERR reports.
The party argues at the same time that rising productivity and international competitiveness will lead to a rise in wages and purchasing power, while the country will see a trade surplus; all of these will help in the finance of education, healthcare, culture, defense and pensions, EKRE states.
EKRE manifesto in brief
End to Rail Baltica
EKRE says it would cancel the Rail Baltica project and develop the current, domestic rail network instead.
Rail Baltica would link Tallinn via a high speed line running to the Lithuania/Poland border and with it, the rest of the EU. While the project was scheduled to be ready for 2026, it has been put back several years.
End to the green revolution
EKRE states that it opposes the green revolution, which it describes as "crazy", saying it impoverishes both the people and business.
On energy, 500MW of electricity will be brought to the market via three new blocks at Narva power stations, EKRE says, thus guaranteeing supply at peak consumption times, will a natural gas-powered plant at Kiisa will be repurposed to supply the market too, under the party's plans.
Preparations would also be made to introduce safe nuclear energy in Estonia, according to the manifesto.
Electricity prices a guaranteed €0.03 per KWh
The party will remove the component, which it says constitutes about half, of electricity prices relating to CO2 emissions, and also reduce the mining and environmental fees that constitute much of the remainder.
This will, EKRE says, lower electricity prices greatly; Helme states that while EKRE was in office, state generator Eesti Energia sold electricity at a price of just over €0.03 per Kwh, yet still made a profit of €20 million.
Eesti Energia will also receive less via the state budget.
VAT and excise duty cuts
With a reduction in VAT at the same time, EKRE says a €0.03-per-Kwh price can return, giving the lowest price of electricity in Estonia.
The VAT system would be reformed, reducing that applied to essentials, while EKRE says it would cut fuel excise duties to the lowest rate permissible under EU rules.
In the case of food, the VAT rate on food would go from 20 percent down to 5 percent, EKRE says.
Family and related benefits boosted
EKRE says it would also instigate measures which would stop the practice of the having of children being postponed solely for economic reasons.
This would spell increased family and parental allowances, reduced kindergarten fees, cuts in student loan rates and an affordable home loan system, the party says.
The party also addresses the perennial four-lane highways question. These would radiate from the capital to the next three largest towns, Tartu, Pärnu and Narva.
This piece was updated to include information on the content of EKRE's electoral program.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte