One of the main reasons for a fall in overall support for the opposition Center Party – which was recently overtaken by Isamaa in the ratings, according to one polling company – is a relatively large drop in support among Estonian voters following a leadership change last month, ERR reports.
However, the net loss in support for Center has not been as bad, since that change also led to a growth in support from voters of "other ethnicities," which overwhelmingly refers to Russian-speaking voters.
Taking the results from two pollsters who cover the Estonian political party scene, Kantar Emor and Norstat, as a basis, a similar trend can be observed. After the change in leadership, the Center Party has lost Estonian supporters but gained more supporters from the other nationalities demographic.
The first group is larger than the second, however, so a net loss in Center support has been posted.
In the Kantar Emor August poll, the overall support for the Center Party stood at 17 percent, while in September it had fallen slightly, to 16 percent.
Breaking this result down by ethnicity, the Center Party had 9.3 percent support from among Estonian-speaking voters in August, but this had fallen to 7.0 percent in September.
At the same time, support for Center among respondents of other nationalities rose from 45.8 percent to 51.8 percent; as noted insufficient to stem the overall drop in support.
As for Norstat's aggregated results before and after last month's congress which elected Mihhail Kõlvart as leader, the overall support in the survey period August 14 and September 11 gave Center a rating of 17.2 percent.
The September 4 to October 2 survey period saw Center's support drop to 15.3 percent, however – even greater than the fall reported by Norstat.
Trends remain the same by ethnicity breakdown with Kantar's results as with Norstat's.
In the case of Estonian-speaking respondents, the support for the Center Party dropped from 11.9 percent to 9.1 percent between August and September, according to Kantar.
Among respondents from other nationalities, conversely, it rose from 45.7 percent to 49.8 percent.
Again, since proportionately there are more Estonian-speaking voters than Russian-speaking ones, a demographic reflected in Kantar's results, this rise was not enough to nullify the loss from among Estonian-speaking respondents, so Center still saw a net loss in support.
Mihhail Kõlvart is seen as the candidate of choice for Russian-speaking voters; as noted he is Tallinn mayor, where Center is the largest party. He defeated former health minister Tanel Kiik in last month's leadership vote in Paide.
Russian-speaking respondents to the Norstat and Kantar surveys are Estonian citizens, since the franchise at Riigikogu elections is restricted to citizens. Next year's EU elections have a wider franchise, incorporating all EU citizens resident in Estonia as well as Estonian citizens, while the municipal elections have the largest franchise of all – all residents of Estonia can vote, though a bill to strip Russian and Belarusian citizens resident in Estonia, nearly 70,000 people, from voting in local elections has been proposed.
Editor: Urmet Kook, Andrew Whyte