The gap in support between the two opposition parties, Center and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), has shrunk to the level it was a year ago, just prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and with less than a month to go until polling day for the Riigikogu. EKRE had been further ahead of Center until now, according to a recent survey.
The research, conducted by pollsters Norstat on behalf of conservative think-tank the Institute for Societal Studies (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), finds 30.6 percent of support for the coalition Reform Party, which remains the clear leader.
EKRE now polls at 20.7 percent, 1.6 percentage points ahead of Center at 19.1 percent, Norstat says.
While Reform's support has in fact fallen, by three percentage points since early December, EKRE's has fallen by even more, by 4.3 percentage points.
The two parties, at least going on their leaders' public statements, tend to see one another as the sole rivals as senior coalition partners, meaning Center's relative rise in support, of 3.6 percentage points over the past six weeks, is significant.
Center had suffered from its association with the Russian-speaking vote in Estonia in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine starting last year, an association which includes an agreement the party had earlier signed with United Russia, Vladimir Putin's party (Center says this agreement has since been rescinded).
By the current Norstat results, Reform lies 9.9 percentage points ahead of EKRE, which in turn as noted is just over a percentage-point-and-a-half ahead of Center.
In any case, support for all three has been relatively stable in recent weeks, as has support for most of the remaining parties: Eesti 200 (11.1 percent), hoping to win its first ever Riigikogu seats on March 5, the Social Democrats (SDE), on 7.8 percent and in office with Isamaa (7.1 percent) in the coalition.
The Greens (1.7 percent) and the recently formed Parempoolsed (1.3 percent) are both below the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation, though Parempoolsed have seen a rise in recent weeks; they had previously polled at less than 1 percent.
The graph below illustrates the relative changes in party support levels since Norstat started compiling its surveys in their current format (Key: Yellow = Reform, green = Center, black = EKRE, royal blue = Isamaa, red = SDE, light blue = Eesti 200, light green = Estonian Greens, orange = Parempoolsed).
The three coalition partners together polled at 45.5 percent, whereas the two opposition parties polled at 39.8 percent combined. Support for the remaining three non-parliamentary parties and those who were undecided would make up the balance.
Were elections to take place today, on the basis of Norstat's results above, Reform would win 35 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu (up one seat on its current tally), EKRE would win 22 seats (up three), Center 20 (a loss of three), Eesti 200, 11 seats, SDE, seven (down from 10) and Isamaa's haul would halve, to six.
There are three-and-a-half weeks remaining until polling day; Norstat is one of three major market research companies conducting regular party support surveys, each using slightly different methodologies. The other two are Turu-uuringute and Kantar Emor.
Norstat aggregates its surveys over a four-week period; the latest survey covers the period January 10 to February 6, and a total of 4,000 Estonian citizens of voting age were interviewed.
The Riigikogu elections take place March 5, preceded by several days' advance voting. Only Estonian citizens are eligible to vote in Riigikogu elections.
Editor: Andrew Whyte