EKRE both gaining support and opponents, Reform hampered by baggage

Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) says Reform will lose ground to EKRE and Estonia 200.
Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) says Reform will lose ground to EKRE and Estonia 200. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

Whilst the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) has seen a growth in support in recent months – bucking the trend for most of the major parties which have all seen a fall – this also seems to be part of a polarisation in public political opinion since the number of voters who would 'certainly not' vote for EKRE has also rise.

As reported on ERR on Wednesday morning, EKRE's 1% rise in August, bringing it to 19%, is the highest it has placed in such a survey, commissioned by ERR and carried out by market pollsters Turu-uuringute AS.

However in parallel to this 34% of respondents said they would not vote for EKRE, compared with 27% in the first half of 2018, so it seems a rise to prominence brings along its knockers as well as new supporters.

The Centre Party maintains the number one spot amongst parties respondents said they would not vote for. However the number of opponents of the Centre Party is shrinking – down to 42% from 48% in the first half of the year.

The Reform Party would be avoided at the polls by 31% of respondents, and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) by 18%.

Reform losing ground to EKRE and Estonia 200, says Centre party deputy chair

Looking at the Reform/Centre/EKRE nexus, deputy chair of the Centre Party Jaanus Karilaid has said he believes Reform will be superseded by both EKRE and the new Estonia 200 party, with both filling the void from the perspective of the free market, classically liberal approach which Reform espouses (whilst being a right-leaning, nationalist party, EKRE's economic policies have a lot in common with Reform, Mr. Karilaid says).

''Reform and EKRE will remain on friendly terms in parliament [they are both in opposition-ed.] ahead of the forthcoming elections, but they will stand off against each other as opponents for the second and third place when it comes to the elections,"Mr. Karilaid averred, adding that Reform Party is lacking new ideas and that the people of Estonia are becoming increasingly aware of its many mistakes over the course of the past 17 years.

"The Reform Party's main promises concern only the wealthier social strata, and timeless support is being given to beer brewers earning record profits," he added, noting a lack of actual reforms and fresh ideas on the party's part.

Reform's skeletons in the cupboard

Another thorn in the side of Reform are long-standing skeletons in the cupboard concerning funding, digital development and the eastern border.

"Millions of euros of dirty money was laundered during the watch of the so-called economic experts, the eastern border was forgotten despite repeating the mantra of security, the digital development of the public and private sector was neglected and in light of the VEB Fund incident, the party may even have been built up with Russian money," Mr. Karilaid went on, adding that myths about the Reform Party's indispensability as a government member are dissipating fast.

VEB (Vneshekonombank) was a Soviet-era Russian bank, and financial dealings between it and the Bank of Estonia, of which Siim Kallas was head in the early 1990s at the time when Estonia became independent, particularly its request that the bank payout $32.2 million to a company called TSL  International, a company which was subsequently dissolved, has been the subject of much speculation.

Another funding-related controversy to dog the party took place in 2012 when a former member of parliament, Silver Meikar, was expelled from the party after apparently blowing the whistle on illicit donations leading to charges being made against prominent members Kristen Michal and Kalev Lillo (charges which were subsequently dropped due to lack of evidence).

The Centre Party itself is experiencing fractures, particularly in the easternmost city of Narva where at least two dozen members recently quit in the wake of corruption accusations, and one MP, Olga Ivanova, has also left the party.

Running counter to this fragmentation, leader of the very small, non-represented People's Unity Party (RÜE) has been making overtures to three of the right-leaning, conservative or free market parties, EKRE, the Free Party and Isamaa/Pro Patria, even touting the idea of one consolidated conservative party, to include RÜE members of course.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS, ERR Uudised

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