Martin Mölder: On political discrimination

Martin Mölder.
Martin Mölder. Source: Lauri Varik

Discrimination based on party preference also follows ideological lines. Those who feel discriminated against clearly sport a more conservative worldview compared to those who don't, Martin Mölder finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

The Estonian Constitution does a good job of ensuring fundamental rights and freedoms. The letter of the law covers everything that is needed for every person's life and well-being to be guaranteed on the basic level. The Constitution's Chapter 12 on discrimination providers, among other things, that no one can be discriminated against based on their political or other convictions. It has also been stipulated that incitement of political hatred is illegal and punishable by law.

But the political reality in Estonia is consistently, as not to say rapidly, becoming one of extensive political strife and persecution that is now spreading to the private sphere.

The first manifestation of this, which I have treated with previously, is negative feelings toward other political parties. This is called emotional polarization and can be gauged by asking people to score political parties in terms of their likability in political polls.

A Norstat poll (1,014 respondents, carried out between March 29 and April 18) following Riigikogu elections demonstrated what could be described as an expected divide. On a likability scale of -5 to +5, Eesti 200, Reform Party and Social Democratic Party (SDE) voters give the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) a score between -3 and -4. EKRE voters are also negatively inclined toward the three ruling parties.

The sentiment is less negative between the supporters of other parties, with the exception of Center voters' attitude toward the Reform Party, which is also around -3. The recent elections did not add much to this animosity as the scores were similar a year ago, immediately before the start of the Ukraine war.

Such strong animosity entails dangers. It could spread beyond the political sphere and start affecting people's relationships in their everyday lives, which are not political by nature. This kind of a spillover seems to have happened already. The same poll also asked people whether they feel they've been discriminated against because of their choice of party, or whether they've felt the need to hide their political preference.

Perception of discrimination is more difficult to measure based on individual parties as the standard sample is not big enough to look at all parties' supporters separately.

Still, it is evident that EKRE supporters include a considerably higher number of those who feel they've been discriminated against. Roughly one-third of EKRE voters feel that way. This is somewhat lower for Center Party and Isamaa supporters. The voters of Eesti 200, SDE and Reform clearly feel least discriminated against, with their relative importance coming to just 5 percent.

Discrimination based on party preference also runs along ideological lines. Those who feel they are a target for discrimination clearly sport a more conservative view than those who don't.

Such discrepancies do not manifest along the economic left-right scale. Those who feel discriminated against tend to find liberal people unpleasant and conservative ones pleasant. While this does not clearly demonstrate who is discriminating against whom, it does provide some clues as to who is doing the persecuting.

Discrimination based on political convictions is prohibited by our constitution. Our society is too small and too fragile to fall out. There are no functional parties in Estonia aiming for the destruction of our state or loss of independence.

There are no political views among larger parties which a free and democratic society should not have. Some may be better and some worse, while a person cannot agree with all of them, but no one should be discriminated against because of them. In a situation where it does happen, one possible reason is anger and hatred toward their competitors cultivated by parties themselves.

Some of that will spill over from the political to the private sphere. All of it comes off crude and childish. People sporting very different political views should be capable of sitting down together and having a friendly conversation, without their political preferences sparking mutual hostility on a personal level.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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