Over two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey said that Kaja Kallas should step down as prime minister in the wake of controversy over her husband's links to a company which had been conducting business in Russia, notwithstanding the prime minister's own exhortations for Estonian firms in general to halt all business activity in or with Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine.
The survey was conducted Wednesday by pollsters Norstat on behalf of conservative think-tank the Institute for Societal Studies.
This was the third week that Norstat had posed the same question, ie. should the prime minister resign over the controversy relating to Stark Logistics, the company her husband had a stake in, given that it had been involved in transporting items manufactured by a related company to a third, also related firm, inside the Russian Federation.
The first week's survey, whose results were published on August 25, found 57 percent in favor of a resignation, shortly after the story first broke.
A week later and after the premier had had time to respond to the criticisms, the figure had grown to 66 percent, but between last week and this week, the proportion of respondents calling for Kallas to resign had only risen by one percentage point, to 67 percent.
The question asked was: "Do you think Kaja Kallas should resign from the office of prime minister?"
As noted, 67 percent answered either "Preferably yes," or simply "Yes," compared with 27 percent who responded "No" or "Preferably not" (the remaining 6 percent answered "Can't say."
As might be expected, the responses varied widely when broken down along party preference lines, although even 19 percent of supporters of Kallas' own party, Reform, found that she should resign over the scandal.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of voters of Reform's coalition partner, Eesti 200, thought the same, while for supporters of the third coalition party, the Social Democrats (SDE), further away on the political spectrum from Reform than Reform and Eesti 200 are from each other, the figure was as high as 57 percent.
Of the three opposition parties, more than 90 percent of supporters thought Kallas should go, ranging from 91 percent of Isamaa voters, to 94 percent who support the Center Party, to 99 percent for the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) – Reform and EKRE leaders often utilize such controversies to underscore both the stark differences between them and the fact that they are the two largest parties by support and Riigikogu seats.
Of encouraging signs for the prime minister, the figure of Eesti 200 respondents to the Norstat survey who thought Kallas should resign over the controversy had fallen in the space of a week, from 48 percent, to 31 percent as noted.
To the question "Do you think the Kaja Kallas (ie. relating to her husband's business – ed.) eastern (ie. Russia-bound – ed.) transport scandal will damage the reputation of Estonia abroad?" 21 percent answered "No" or "Rather no", while 72 percent responded "Yes" or "Rather yes."
"What the elephant thinks of us," ie. how Estonian is viewed in other countries, is a common motif in Estonian society, particularly when controversies erupt; similar conversations were being held in 2019 when then-interior minister Mart Helme made a series of critical remarks about NATO.
Again, by party, voters of opposition parties were more inclined to think that the saga had indeed harmed Estonia's reputation internationally (98 percent for EKRE, 94 percent for Center and 91 percent for Isamaa) compared with Reform-voting respondents (28 percent of whom thought the same).
The figure was also high among supporters of the other two coalition parties (73 percent of SDE voters thought the scandal had been harmful to Estonia's image abroad; 55 percent of Eesti 200 supporters thought so too).
Norstat conducted its latest poll on September 6 between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and quizzed 1,000 Estonian citizens of voting age.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi