Free Party MP Monika Haukanõmm has announced that she is leaving the Free Party and will likely run as a candidate for the Social Democrats in next year's general election. Haukanõmm joined the Free Party in 2014 after she had been a member of Pro Patria (then still called IRL) since 2009.
Haukanõmm's journey to the left is an expression of current trends in Estonian politics. With the rise of far-right populism and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Pro Patria, the Free Party and even the Reform Party have taken on positions farther to the political right than before to try and keep their voters from switching over to the new competition.
This has estranged moderates from their parties and is at least part of the reason why former Pro Patria heavyweights Marko Mihkelson and Margus Tsahkna found a new political home in the Reform Party and in Estonia 200.
The Free Party, much of protest party character to begin with, is especially affected, as both EKRE and Estonia 200 are threatening to cut into their election result next year, not to mention internal tensions as different allegiances and opinions clashed in the party's chairmanship elections earlier this year.
With the social positions of Pro Patria and the Free Party shifting away from a moderate to a more populist line, social worker and social issues advocate Monika Haukanõmm now feels she has more in common with the Social Democrats than with the Free Party.
Haukanõmm told ERR on Friday that she has submitted the necessary paperwork to leave both the Free Party as well as its group in the Riigikogu. Though it is still early to talk about her joining the Social Democrats, there are tentative agreements already that would see her run for her seat as part of SDE in next year's general election on 3 March.
Once she leaves the Free Party's parliamentary group, Haukanõmm will be an independent member of the Riigikogu even if she should join SDE. According to the parliament's rules, an MP leaving their group may not join another during an ongoing parliamentary term. This rule dates back to the at times chaotic political conditions of the 1990s, when it was introduced to maintain a modicum of order in the national parliament.
Editor: Dario Cavegn