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Huge variation in incidence of payment of party membership dues

Interior of the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) main debating chamber.
Interior of the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) main debating chamber. Source: Erik Peinar/Riigikogu kantselei

Whilst the Isamaa/Pro Patria Party may have raised the highest amount of money in donations of any of the main Estonian political parties in the second quarter of 2018, it turns out that this is no thanks to party membership fees, and in fact the party has the smallest proportion of members who pay their fees.

As reported by ERR, Isamaa/Pro Patria received €62,332 in donations in the second quarter of 2018, which was over €10,000 more than the next highest beneficiary party, the Reform Party.

According to data release by the Baltic News Service, however, in direct contrast to the situation with donations, Isamaa/Pro Patria comes in bottom of the table when it comes to membership fees payments.

The Free Party (Vabaerakond) reportedly saw the highest proportion of members paying their dues, with 103 members coughing up during the period April-June 2018; this represents nearly 27% of its total membership (635). Conversely it received one of the smallest amounts in donations, as reported by ERR, at a little over €4,000.

Some caveats

Whilst in proportion to numbers of members the amount of donations received by the Free Party is still higher than most of the bigger parties, one should be wary of drawing a correlation between willingness to pay dues and to give donations, since the latter are not something which are evenly spread between members (one single donor accounted for almost half of Isamaa/Pro Patria's donations) and indeed could in theory come from non-members of the recipient party.

None of the other parties came close to the Free Party's figures with regard to membership dues, however, with around 6% of both the opposition Reform Party (which has a total of 12,216 members at present) and the junior coalition Social Democratic Party (SDE – 5,818 members) paying up. Ruling coalition party, the Centre Party, brought in membership dues from only around 3% of its 14,841 members during the second quarter.

At the bottom of the table, as noted, lies Isamaa/Pro Patria who with 8,680 reported members, only managed to obtain membership dues from 103 individuals, or just over 1% of membership – actually less in absolute terms than the Free Party had.

Green Party members paid highest dues

Whilst it is tempting to explain the much higher proportion of membership dues in the non-coalition Free Party as simply being the result of its very small and presumably intimate size, (though it has no fewer than eight MPs in Parliament) the Green Party also experienced a low incidence of members paying up during the second quarter.

The Greens are comparable in size with the Free Party at a little over 1,000 members and raked in membership fees from just over 4% of its members during the same period. The Green Party currently has no MPs in the Riigikogu, however.

The Greens were also the most generous in terms of amount of money given in fees (or alternatively may have had higher fees demanded of their members), paying an average of just over €30 per member over the period in question, compared with a range of approximately €15-€22 per member for all the other parties.

Full breakdown of membership fees in Q2 2018

PartyNo. of Members.Percentage of Members paying party dues at least once during period.Average amount paid per person in membership dues.
Centre Party14,8413.12%€21.76
Reform Party12,2165.97%€14.89
Pro Patria8,6801.19%€15.17
EKRE8,4302.41%not known
Free Party63526.77%€16.64
Green Party1,0664.3%€30.42


Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS

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