Political scientist: Eesti 200 must learn from its mistakes

Riigikogu's main debating chamber.
Riigikogu's main debating chamber. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Any newcomer to the political party scene must face a steep learning curve in dealing with crises and engaging in effective public relations, Tallinn University political scientist Tõnis Saarts says.

Saars made his remarks in the context of travails the coalition Eesti 200 party has undergone lately and since entering office with Reform and the Social Democrats (SDE), after one MP had to quit the Riigikogu over embezzlement allegations, and another stepped down from his post as Riigikogu environmental committee chair.

Saarts said Friday that: "The question is, of course, that if there are more of these scandals and the party's popularity drops particularly strongly to the point that there is a question whether, for example, they would cross the electoral threshold in the next election, then this can likely to lead to internal squabbles and divisions."

"We have seen new political parties disintegrate in that way, many times in the past," he added.

Tõnis Saarts at the ERR Radio House. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Eesti 200's support, according to one survey, fell to 8.3 percent, over the past week, below that of its coalition partner SDE.

The threshold required in order to win seats in any of Estonia's three categories of direct elections stands at 5 percent.

The party's chief whip at the Riigikogu Marek Reinaas also conceded the party needs to learn from its mistakes.

"There is nothing smarter to do than that, so hopefully Eesti 200 will regain its position both in people's hearts and in politics at that point when the Riigikogu starts to produce slightly better news than tax increases," Reinaas said, referencing another issue thought to be behind Eesti 200's recent support slump.

Johanna-Maria Lehtme stepped down as an MP last month, following allegations that she had been involved in embezzlement activities during her time as head of Slava Ukraini, an NGO set up to provide aid to Ukraine and which had also dealt with a shadowy partner organization on the ground in Ukraine.

Lehtme had been the most voted-for Eesti 200 candidate, after being presented as a "supporter of Ukraine" in the party's pre-election campaign material.

She was replaced by former Green Party leader Züleyxa Izmailova, while the latter has had a good week in being promoted to Riigikogu environmental affairs committee chair.

This post was vacated after another Eesti 200 MP, Tarmo Tamm, stepped down following revelations he was subject to two misdemeanor proceedings in respect of his timber busienss activities, and claims of a conflict of interest.

Tamm maintains he stepped down of his own accord.

Eesti 200, founded in 2018, won its first Riigikogu seats, 14 of them, on March 5. The party also holds the Riigikogu speaker role via its leader, Lauri Hussar.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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