Current Prime Minister and Centre Party chair Juri Ratas, now exceeds Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas as the most preferred candidate amongst voters in Estonia to be the next prime minister, according to yet another survey conducted by Turu-uuringute AS, this time for daily Eesti Päevaleht.
Mr. Ratas was first choice for 30% of respondents with Kaja Kallas some way behind on 22% in what is shaping up to be a two-horse race for 2019.
This represents a surge in popularity for the incumbent prime minister; a similar survey in June apparently had the pair neck-and-neck at 22%.
The share of support for Mr. Ratas has grown amongst most sectors of society as canvassed by Turu-uuringute AS; women, men, ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers alike. His popularity also transcends age groups, according to the research, with one exception – the thirty-somethings, or rather 25-34 year olds, polled showed 22% support for free market-championing Ms. Kallas versus 15% for Mr. Ratas.
Ms. Kallas is also a shade ahead if solely ethnic Estonians are in the frame, though only by one percentage point. Centre, whilst usually led by ethnic Estonians, tends to draw a lot of support from ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the country. Indeed amongst ethnicities other than Estonian, Mr. Ratas wins favour with 54% of those questioned. The survey includes respondents not eligible to vote in the Estonian general elections, whether due to age, lack of Estonian citizenship, or some other reason.
"Kallas addresses the younger and more educated voter more, Ratas meanwhile has good skills in speaking to the regular people," said Juhan Kivirahk, survey manager at Turu-uuringute AS, shedding some light on the results.
As before, chairman of the opposition Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme was in third place, though with a slight fall in popularity even as his party is the only major party in Estonia to have grown in support in recent months. Mr. Helme is the preference of 9% of respondents, compared with 11–12% in previous similar surveys.
Junior coalition parties the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa/Pro Patria (formerly IRL) see 4% and 2% respectively for their leaders, Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Pro Patria). Chair of the beleaguered Free Party, Andres Herkel, picked up 1% of support as the best candidate for prime minister.
The ratio of those unable to name their preference was 33%.
Others not covered by the survey would include Artur Talvik, former Free Party leader, who is in the midst of setting up a new party of his own, and Estonia 200, whose leader is Kristiina Kallas (no relation to Kaja), as well as Zuza Ismailova, Green Party leader.
The Turu-uuringute AS survey was conducted between 8 and 26 August, interviewing just over a thousand people, of whom 811 were voting-age citizens in Estonia.
Despite Mr. Ratas' apparent popularity and common touch, his party has been riven with factionalism, particularly in the Narva district, with Centre Party councillors there leaving en masse following corruption allegations levied against some of their number.
The general elections in Estonia take place on 3 March 2019.
Editor: Andrew Whyte