At an extended leadership meeting of the Centre Party on Saturday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said that he expects attacks on the party and its members to increase and also to get more personal as the campaign for the 3 March general election intensifies.
The opposition parties are ready to do anything to get to power, Ratas said in his speech at the meeting. "We need to mentally prepare for it. Despite the challenges we want to win the elections and a third, meaning at least 34 seats in the Riigikogu," Ratas said.
"I won't be surprising anyone when I predict that Estonia is in for an ugly and dirty election campaign. There will be attacks, including fake news and half-truths. Hopefully not even once more involving violence," he added.
According to Ratas, the main divide between parties in this campaign is between those who offer security, and those who opt for fear mongering to achieve their aims.
Some parties are trying to scare voters with talk about mass immigration, Ratas said: "We will repeat, 100 times a day if necessary, that under the leadership of the Centre Party there aren't and won't be any mandatory refugee quotas."
Ratas also referred to accusations out of the opposition Reform Party that the government's current approach to economic issues is ruinous. "Where our competition says that fuel prices are too high, we ask them, why did you repeatedly raise the excise duties for petrol and diesel yourself then? And we'll remind them who it was that canceled the increase in the excise duty on diesel planned by the Reform Party government for this year."
Centre is the only political force in Estonia capable of preventing the onslaught of extremism, as there have been signs that extremists are taking over in the Reform Party as well, Ratas said. The Reform Party is degenerating more and more into "a little brother" of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Addressing the threat faced by several parties in the shape of newcomers Estonia 200, who at this point are considered to be an attractive alternative for moderate voters, Ratas added that though he understands the hope of progressively minded voters that Estonia 200 will stand up for their liberal values, they alone are no guarantee that a coalition between EKRE and the Reform Party can be prevented.
Though both Ratas and Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas have said that they won't work with EKRE in government, there are voices in both parties that at least at the present stage of the campaign do not want to exclude the possibility of a coalition with Estonia's by now leading right-wing party.
The general election is set for 3 March next year, just 84 days ahead of the 2019 European elections.
Editor: Dario Cavegn