Potential next premier: Kaja Kallas support unaffected by party rating drop

Support for Reform's leader, Kaja Kallas, has grown in recent weeks.
Support for Reform's leader, Kaja Kallas, has grown in recent weeks. Source: Urmet Kook

While the Reform Party's curve of support has moved in a downwards direction over the past two weeks, party leader Kaja Kallas has not seen a concomitant drop in support, and in fact has seen a recent rise, according to a recent survey polling respondents on who the next Prime Minister of Estonia should be.

Due in no small part to support as prime minister from Eesti 200 and Social Democratic Party (SDE) voters, according to the survey, Kallas remains in the clear lead as preferred prime minister, and to continue in the post she first took on in January 2021.

The recent poll was commissioned by public broadcaster ERR's news floor, and conducted by market research firm Kantar Emor.

Respondents were asked who they would like to see as Prime Minister of Estonia after the Riigikogu elections on March 5, from a choice of all the main party leaders (pictured above).

A total of 38.3 percent of respondents said they would like to see Kallas returning as premier after the elections, whose advance voting period starts on Monday. This represented a rise in support of one percentage point on the previous week's Kantar Emor poll on the same topic; two weeks ago, Kallas polled at 36.7 percent.

In second place is former prime minsiter, Center Party leader and current Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas, who polled at 19.5 percent. Ratas' rating has, however, fallen over the past two weeks, from 21.3 percent, according to Kantar Emor.

At the same time, he outstrips his part in terms of support; Center is in third place overall, behind the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

EKRE's leader, Martin Helme, was third-most popular choice as next prime minister, though he, too, has seen a fall in support, to 12 percent according to the latest Kantar Emor poll. A fortnight ago, Helme polled at 15.6 percent, while a week ago his rating stood at 13.6 percent.

The remaining party leaders polled in the single figures, according to Kantar Emor.

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder picked up 3.7 percent of support, Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) at 2.8 percent, Lavly Perling (Parempoolsed) at 2.6 percent, and SDE leader Lauri Läänemets at 2.1 percent.

While Riigikogu elections are generally more party-focused than their local and European parliament equivalents, the personality effect can be seen here also: Isamaa has been polling around the 9-percent mark, according to Kantar Emor, behind Eesti 200 and SDE.

Parempoolsed, contesting its first election, polls well below SDE as a party (2.3 percent for Parempoolsed, and 10 percent for SDE, according to the most recent Kantar Emor party poll).

In other words, if "can't say" respondents are included in a recent Kantar Emor poll on party support, Kallas, Ratas and Perling all poll significantly ahead of the parties they lead; Lauri Hussar, Helir-Valdor Seeder and Lauri Läänemets as potential next prime minister poll significantly lower than their parties, while Martin Helme's support is only slightly below that of his party.

An additional 4 percent of respondents to Kantar Emor's survey said they would prefer to see "someone else" in office than any of the current party leaders, while 15 percent were unable to express a preference.

The Estonian Greens (Rohelised) have to co-chairs as per European Green parties' standard practice, and so have not been included in these results.

Support by demographic

Kaja Kallas polls roughly equally between women voters (40 percent of whom would like to see her return as prime minister) and men voters (for whom the figure was 37 percent).

A bigger gap is seen in support for Jüri Ratas as prime minister – 22 percent of women voters preferred such an outcome, compared with 16 percent of men respondents to the survey.

The reverse was the case for Martin Helme, who picked up 18 percent of support from men respondents, compared with 7 percent from women respondents.

By nationality, native Estonian speaker respondents supported Kallas more than the overall result, at 46 percent, while Ratas and Helme were tied in second place, at 14 percent.

By comparison, Ratas was the clear leader among voters of "other nationalities", which in practice means overwhelmingly those Estonian citizens responding to the survey, whose first language is Russian.

Ratas polled at 41 percent here, compared with 10 percent for Kallas. Nine percent of this demographic said they would like someone other than the current leaders to be the next premier, while as many as 29 percent of respondents were undecided.

Eesti 200, SDE voters give boost to Kallas

Kallas, Ratas and Helme were clearly the most popular prime ministerial candidates among the Reform Party, Center Party and EKRE voters, ie. their own parties, respectively.

The table below shows the support for each party leader as next prime minister, by party. Green signifies a high level of support, red a low level.

(Key: Keskerakond = Center Party, Reformierakond = Reform Party, Rohelised = Estonian Greens).

Support as prime minister from voters of all parties. Source: ERR

The same could be said of Lavly Perling and Helir-Valdor Seeder and their respective parties, though Kaja Kallas saw some support from Parempoolsed supporters; both Kallas and Ratas picked up support from Isamaa supporters.

However, among Eesti 200 and SDE voters, Kaja Kallas beats those parties' own leaders, as potential next prime minister.

Among voters of SDE, the party's current leader and interior minister, Lauri Läänemets, is in fact the third choice.

Most likely, these figures represent more a realistic understanding on the part of Eesti 200 and SDE voters of the likelihood of their leaders becoming the next head of government, rather than a vote of no-confidence in the leaders per se.

Both Eesti 200 and SDE would fit in an all-liberal coalition with Reform, which might see the smaller parties' leaders granted a sinecure, while some analysts have tipped this outcome as a likely post-election alignment.

Kantar Emor conducted its poll on behalf of the ERR newsroom during the period February 20-22, quizzing 1,577 citizens aged 18-84, online (two-thirds of the total) and over the phone (one third).

Kantar Emor claims a maximum margin of error of +/- 2.4 percent in this case.

The advance voting period for the Riigikogu elections starts Monday, February 27, while polling day itself is Sunday, March 5.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook

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