Recent ratings surveys demonstrate that despite fluctuations and some controversial policy aims, the Reform Party remains the most-supported in the land – but why? Regional daily Sakala (link in Estonian) posed this exact question to a wide range of political scientists, politicians and other commentators and from across the spectrum, with some of the answers following.
Kadri Karma, political and opinion research project manager with pollsters Norstat, told that Reform's success is in part due to its leadership, and also its approach to defense and security, and to the transition to Estonian-only education.
Alar Kilp, political scientist, lecturer at Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu, noted that Reform has been performing well among key demographics – women voters, wealthier voters with much to lose – as well as the fact that the party has stability with Kaja Kallas as leader, even if that sometimes results on confrontation; this does not, necessarily, negatively impact on a party's rating, he said.
As for a leading Reform member themselves, Mayor of Viljandi Madis Timpson, says that in the longer perspective, tough love on the state of the economy and the need to make painful decisions plays to the party's hands, while in the shorter run, disillusion with some of the alternative parties has led to people returning to the fold over summer; MEP from the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Jaak Madison, notes that the cost of living crisis has not yet bitten as hard as expected, adding that Reform has done well on security "even though it created an infantile belief in many people that our Kaja can defend us."
Finally, Helmen Kütt, from the Social Democrats (SDE), MP and chair of Viljandi City Council,* said that Reform's fatter wallet certainly helped smooth off fluctuations the party has seen in its ratings in recent years – via successful pre-election campaigning – while the party skillfully played its hand in confrontation with EKRE, utilizing its roster of professional and skilled politicians and technocrats in doing so, and relying on its strong brand recognition and loyal voting core.
Sakala is part of the Postimees group of newspapers, mainly covering Viljandi County.
*Sitting MPs are permitted also to hold a municipal council seat, and indeed around half of them do, though they may not hold a municipal government position. MEPs may not hold a seat either at the Riigikogu or on municipal councils.
Editor: Andrew Whyte