Daily: Tartu residents complain about electoral advertising in parking lots

A snowy Tartu skyline.
A snowy Tartu skyline. Source: Ragnar Vutt/Tartu City Government

Regional daily Tartu Postimees says it has received several tip-offs from local residents irritated by the use of mobile electoral advertisements – usually on a trailer – which, they say, take up the already scarce parking spaces in the town.

Tartu urban design specialist Erge Jõgela told the daily (link in Estonian) that such trailers have been approved by the city government and so are not illegally parked, while the authorities take into account traffic safety and parking lot occupancy rates in granting that permission, she said.

One party using the method is the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), whose trailer advertisement is wheel-less, not as a result of vandalism, Silver Kuusik, one of the candidates featured in the ad, but intentionally so, he said, adding: "I don't see a big issue in this."

The Reform Party has also placed a trailer billboard in two locations in the scity, near a family doctor center and close to a sports hall, prompting concerns that electoral advertising trumps the rights of those in need to get medical help or to exercise – a Reform spokesperson said that the ad agency employed will be consulted on the issue, with the trailers relocated if need be.

While permits must be obtained from city authorities in Tartu to advertize in this way, no money changes hand, while electoral ads are also exempt from advertising tax, Tartu Postimees reported.

The original Tartu Postimees piece is here.

The issue of electoral advertising always rears its head in the run up to the polls, while the March 5 Rigiikogu elections are the first to have taken place since a ban on outdoor electoral advertising, from around six weeks ahead of election day, was lifted.

Previously, outdoor ads of this kind would have been forbidden this late in the day, though loopholes exploited in the past have included, in EKRE's case, the very same method of peripatetic ads left in legitimate, if prominent, parking spaces.

The Center Party got round the former ban by placing electoral ads inside its headquarters on Narva mnt. in Tallinn. Since the offices have large glass, ground floor windows, the ads were visible to pedestrians and traffic from street level.

The Reform Party has also been known to place electoral ads suspended from an above-street hoarding, in exactly the same location.

Reform Party outdoor ads close to Center Party HQ, ahead of the 2019 Riigikogu elections. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Most parties also use party or candidate ad decals placed on car, bus or other vehicle bodywork, which had always been perfectly legitimate.

The erstwhile bar on outdoor electoral advertising, which was lifted before the 2021 October local elections, did not apply to online advertising, TV and radio spots, and print media advertising.

The issue was even more complex in 2019, when European parliamentary elections followed two-and-a-half months after those to the Riigikogu, including for the parties themselves, as they have to provide quarterly financial reports.

The change in regulations may also be a factor in the relative lateness with which most parties started their campaigning ahead of the Riigikogu election, compared with previous elections.

Outdoor electoral advertising and canvassing is permissible right up until polling day, March 5, though ads must of course not be placed inside a building being used as a polling station.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Tartu Postimees

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