Internal strife is behind the exodus of nearly 300 former members from the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) since the start of 2023, daily Postimees writes.
Postimees reports (link in Estonian) on the basis of statements made by people it talked to who had quit EKRE that the issue particularly concerned branches in southeastern Estonia, whose active members had come into conflict with the party's leadership, to the extent that they had either left or been expelled.
A bar chart published in the Postimees piece and based on commercial register data shows that in January, EKRE's membership fell by 120 people, in February by 70, by 65 in March and by 39 last month – the largest wave of departures since January 2019.
Under Estonian electoral law, a party requires a minimum of 500 members to qualify as such, though EKRE is well above that level: As of the end of 2021, the party reported over 10,000 members nationwide, while the commercial register (Äriregister) put the figure at much the same (10,102 to be precise) at the time of writing.
Postimees says a generational difference is also behind some of the tension, in addition to the issues such as the extent to which Ukraine should be supported in the wake of the Russian invasion, Estonia's own defense and security, conservation of the natural environment, and also abortion, as well as the party's worse-than-expected electoral performance on March 5.
One former EKRE member Postimees mentioned by name is Helen Rebane, who had prior to leaving headed up the party's youth wing, Sinine Äratus; Rebane said she sees a conflict between the "old" EKRE-ites, formed around the People's Union, the party's predecessor, and the "new" members.
EKRE won 17 seats at the Riigikogu election on March 5, two down from its tally at the 2019 election which, while still the second-largest party by representation, is considerably behind Reform on 37 seats. In recent weeks it has seen a surge in support, however, while Reform has seen a fall, at least according to one market research firm.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots