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Political parties hunting for major scalps says ERR political editor

Toomas Sildam (left) talking to Margus Saar on Friday evening's ''Aktuaalne Kaamera''.
Toomas Sildam (left) talking to Margus Saar on Friday evening's ''Aktuaalne Kaamera''. Source: ERR

In the run-up to 2019's general election, the major parties are on the hunt for currently uncommitted 'big names', says ERR's political editor Toomas Sildam.

Speaking to Margus Saar on current affairs show ''Aktuaalne Kaamera'' on Friday, Sildam said that political parties need three things: money, memorable promises or slogans, and household names pulling in thousands of votes.

''It seems that the parties are going through a 'new faces' phase in their media strategy, and one-by-one are picking up noted figures accordingly,'' said Sildam.

Mihkelson, Tarand, Höövelson

Recent high profile recruits include Marko Mikhelson, who went to Reform, Indrek Tarand (SDE) and former sumo star Kaido Höövelson (Centre); it is likely that more will follow.

2016 presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand joined SDE in spring, and former first lady Evelin Ilves is another potential prize.

Sildam noted that whilst Indrek Tarand, who has been an MEP since 2009, garnered thousands of votes as an independent in being elected to the EU Parliament, it is significant that his worldview brought him to SDE.

Some running for party but not joining it

That said, it appears Mr. Tarand is not burning his bridges. He has stated that he will only run for SDE at the 2019 election, but not joined the party, Sildam explained.

Marina Kaljurand, who joined SDE in spring, could also help the party maintain its seat in Europe. SDE currently have one seat there (Marju Lauristin being the incumbent), as do Pro Patria and Centre, with Reform holding two seats.

Kaido Höövelson, who as 'Baruto' reached the upper echelons of sumo competition in Japan, does not fit with Centre's voter base, in Sildam's opinion.

Interesting personalities being wooed

''Do voters really want to see more seasoned politicians, or will they also vote for popular former sports stars?'' asked Sildam.

''The number of 'cultural' persons who have been wooed by parties ahead of 2019, and in some cases signed up, in the hopes of boosting popularity, is interesting,'' he went on.

New parties also need established names

The new Estonia 200 party also, unexpectedly, attracted an established politician into the fold (former Pro Patria minister Margus Tsahkna).

Artur Talvik's new party, 'the Biodiversity Party', so far consisting of ecologists and green activists, is another surprise twist, said Sildam.

''However, the established parties need to court yet more established political actors,'' Sildam opined.

The parliamentary (Riigikogu) general election takes place on 3 March 2019.

The original interview (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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