Experts: Few variations between party election campaigns this year

Eesti 200 political compaign.
Eesti 200 political compaign. Source: ERR

This year, advertisements may also air on election day. According to experts, there are few distinctions between the campaigns of the various political parties in the run-up to this year's elections, the slogans are conservative, and little effort is made to stand out.

The social media are bustling with campaign messages and television is the home of continuous campaign pledges. There is a palpable sense that only weeks left till the elections.

Compared to previous elections to the Riigikogu, the electoral rules have been altered to the effect that practically all limitations on campaigning have been lifted.

"So the election posters can be up for the whole election period, including election day. And the ban on active advertisement on election day has also been lifted," Arne Koitmäe, head of the election services, said.

However, experts say that the campaigns are modest and lack distinction. They use tried-and-true strategies while taking very few risks.

Annika Arras, head of the consulting firm Miltton, said that all parties stand out in the current election for their intense patriotism. Blue and black are back in style.

Campaign solutions are limited

In these elections, the Reform Party has run the best campaign. It is a classic, according to Alar Pink, a marketing instructor at Tallinn University, and clearly conveys its message.

The Central Party's Russian-language tagline "My za vas" [we are on your side] has been more successful than its Estonian counterpart, according to advertising agency Urmas Villmann.

"Since the support of the Center Party is based mostly on the Russian-speaking population, with 7 percent of the Estonian people supporting them at the moment, it is as if they cannot speak for the entire country. It seems as though little work has been done in crafting this message for Estonians as well," Villmann said.

Alar Ping said that the most awful slogan belongs to the Social Democrats (SDE).

"One of the fundamentals of political advertising is simplicity; everything should be obvious. And if you tell the voter, 'Self-sufficiency is security,' I need to think how the two concepts are related. They certainly are in some way, but it's still an extra thought process for me," Pink said.

The Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE)  has prioritized television advertising.

Villmann said that the Isamaa party has the most effective posters, but a lackluster slogan.

New parties did not bring fresh ideas

Although innovative approaches could be expected from new parties, the Parempoolsed campaign is not visible enough, according to experts. Their slogan, "Voice of Reason," also lacks in feeling.

Experts who worked on Eesti 200 program think that their campaign this year was rather successful. Arras says that Eesti 200 have made progress since the last election with purple tones and superheroes playing in their favor.

"They are visible on the streets for the first time, which is good for them. In the local elections, their ads were such a cool pastel color, that no one would have guessed they were ads. In that sense, there has been an improvement," Arras said.

"If they can get young people active with them, it might even be worth the risk. I think for the core workforce, that risk may not be justified," Pink added.

This year, the parties are avoiding risk in general.

Alar Pink cites a successful advertising campaign by Isamaa and Res Publica in the past, where an IRL election slogan was shown on a recording of a Tallinn TV live broadcast.

New this year

Social media have never been used so much in campaigns before. Even China's Tiktok, which the Information System Authority (RIA) considers a security risk, is full of political ads in the run-up to the elections.

"It's the impression it gives. It helps you remember. Well, it depends on what you want to be known for. Do you like to make people laugh, or do you have a good idea to make life better in Estonia?" Arras said.

Campaign financing is ever more transparent

No election period is devoid of questions regarding whether a party's advertising goes too far. Since 2010, the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) has supervised the actions of political parties and to which the parties themselves have primarily complained about their rivals.

Kaarel Tarand, vice-chairman of the commission, said that the activities of political parties have become increasingly transparent over the years, but the law does not allow all fraud to be uncovered. The commission works on two bases.

"One is banned donations: political parties can, as you know, receive money only from individuals, not companies. And the other governs the use of public funds, which handles the misuse of money from the state or local government budget to gain political advantage by abusing one's official position," Tarand explained.

Although the commission is watching, it will not become clear what went wrong this time until after the elections.

Prior to elections, the experts recommend that political parties avoid scandals.

"There has not been a campaign that does nothing that makes your heart sing; there has never been a campaign that does not do something that just makes you feel embarrassed. And then there are always moments when you know it was very well and professionally," Arras added.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Kristina Kersa

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