Reform Party support falls to lowest level since Norstat ratings began

Kaja Kallas, Martin Helme, and Urmas Reinsalu.
Kaja Kallas, Martin Helme, and Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) remains most-supported party in the country, according to a recent poll, one which also found the Reform Party's 1.2 percentage-point drop in support over the past week taking it to its lowest rating since the survey began, over four years ago.

A total of 57.1 percent of respondents to the survey, conducted on a weekly basis by pollsters Norstat on behalf of conservative think-tank the Institute of Societal Studies (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), pledged their support to one of the three opposition parties – EKRE, Isamaa or Center; 37.3 percent did so for one of the three coalition partners: Reform, Eesti 200 or the Social Democrats (SDE).

 By party, EKRE polled at 23.3 percent in the latest Norstat survey, followed by Reform at 20.6 percent, and Isamaa at 19.3 percent.

Norstat first reported that EKRE had surpassed Reform in support just last week.

 Over the past five weeks, the prime minister's party, ie. Reform, has seen its rating decline by 5.3 percentage points, according to Norstat, to an all-time low since the company started compiling its ratings surveys on their current basis, in early 2019.

EKRE's rating remains static despite the party being the most supported, according to Norstat; Isamaa enjoyed a 1.4 percentage point rise in support over the past week, and a 9.5 percentage point rise over nine weeks and the inverse of Reform's in that this is the party's highest rating since Norstat started its weekly surveys.

Isamaa obtained a new leader in June, former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu.

Reform has been dogged by issues including an unpopular tax on car ownership which still has to pass into law before it can be levied, the state of the economy at present, and the fallout from revelations that the prime minister's spouse had a large stake in a company doing business inside the Russian Federation.

The "top" three parties are followed by Center at 14.5 percent, SDE at 10.3 percent and Eesti 200 at 6.4 percent.

These levels do not represent a significant change; Center saw its support fall from September after Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart became the new party leader, but this may have bottomed-out, and the same can likely be said of Eesti 200, whose rating plummeted in the aftermath of the March election.

Political scientist: Fall in support for Reform noticeable among Estonian voters

Commenting on these results, University of Tartu political scientist Martin Mölder told daily Postimees (link in Estonian) that 2023 will likely be looked back on as the year when major shift in Estonia's political landscape took place.

He said: "Plenty of changes are currently taking place concurrently and at a significant pace."

"If these continue, still the more so if they persist, we will soon be seeing a completely different distribution of power across the party system, which is partly already in blatant contradiction to the distribution of power in the Riigikogu," Mölder went on, referring to the fact that Reform (37 seats) and Eesti 200 (14 seats) are far more represented at the 101-seat Riigikogu, than the current rating implies.

"The fall in support has been noticeable especially among Estonian voters," Mölder went on, referring to voters whose first language is Estonian – only citizens of Estonia can vote in Riigikogu elections.

"They are probably more affected by the Kaja Kallas 'eastern transport scandal,' and this has fallen to the lowest level in the history of Norstat's ratings in this voter group," Mölder pointed out.

Mölder noted that Reform's support has fallen both on a weekly basis and, now, on a four-week aggregate basis (Norstat conducts its survey each week and aggregates them over the preceding four-week period; the latest survey covered the period September 18-October 13 – ed.).

A total of just over 4,000 Estonian citizens of voting age were polled over the four weeks, and Norstat claims a margin of error in proportion to the size of a party's support. So, for instance, results for EKRE, as most-supported party, come with a margin of error of +/- 1.59 percent, compared with +/- 0.92 percent for Eesti 200.

The next election is to the European Parliament, in June 2024. The next scheduled Riigikogu election takes place in March 2027.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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