Estonia 200 unveils full candidate list and manifesto on Sunday

Piit Alamäe of Estonia 200 has been in focus, speaking about some of Estonia 200's possible tax policies. The full manifesto and candidate list will be announced on Sunday.
Piit Alamäe of Estonia 200 has been in focus, speaking about some of Estonia 200's possible tax policies. The full manifesto and candidate list will be announced on Sunday. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Newly established party Estonia 200 is to announce its full candidate list on Sunday, as well as unveil its election manifesto.

The party, whose leader Kristina Kallas came under fire over the past week following a controversial poster campaign aimed at highlighting the effective segregation of Estonian and Russian-speaking communities in the country, is set to come up with a full list of 125 candidates across all 12 electoral districts.

Ms Kallas described Estonia 200 as strong, consisting of experts in their respective fields and from across Estonia. 

"In choosing our candidates we clearly took the path of substance and not nationwide recognition, as we believe that voters deserve the possibility to elect to the Riigikogu not professional politicians, but rather, teachers, doctors and engineers, who wish to make their competent contribution to Estonia being strong and prosperous 100 years from now as well," she was quoted, in a Friday press release.

The Estonian electoral systems sees parties running lists of around a dozen candidates in each district in a variation on the d'Hondt method of proportional representation. The candidates are ranked in order – excess votes picked up by candidates higher on the list can be redistributed to those lower on the list, thus getting more seats.

This has long seen parties bringing ''big names'' to their lists, primarily to attract votes for this purpose. Some of these, such as Indrek Tarand (running for SDE but not a member) are established politicians; others, such as former sumo wrestler Baruto – Kaido Höövelson (Centre), former skiier Kristina Šmigun-Vähi (Reform) or singer Siiri Sisask (withdrew from running for EKRE), are not.

Some candidates, policy points already known

Estonia 200 had already announced some of its candidates, including in the easternmost district of Ida-Viru County.

Sunday's congress, to be held at a recreation complex in Kakumäe, in the west of Tallinn, will also address the party's platform, it is reported.

"Estonia 200 already promised in its manifesto in May that we wish to address Estonia's real concerns, the solving or not solving of which determines what our country will look like in the decades to come,'' Ms Kallas said.

''Furthermore, our pre-election program, which puts long-term view in the first place, rests on this same principle. The program contains few promises, but many plans for reform. We will set forth our vision for future Estonia and the long-term and short-term activities that are necessary to achieve an Estonia like this," she continued.

Party policies that have already been discussed in public include avoiding sweeping tax reform, but nonetheless increasing property taxes.

"Taxes are the price that people are ready to pay for the environment provided to them," Estonia 200 board member Priit Alamäe said at a presentation on Friday, arguing that cutting or raising VAT by a few percentage points would not make a huge difference, and that Estonia 200 would not significantly alter Estonia's current tax burden.

Difficult to pinpoint precise tax rates

The party would however raise property taxes, currently at a low level, it says.

"The vision that I personally have is that property taxes must rise in the future. I'm not an expert, but there are very wise people in our country who can calculate what the reasonable level would be, when a political guideline has been given," Mr Alamäe said.

"It isn't the case that 3% or 5% is ideal,'' Mr Alamäe continued, on the question of exactly what rate property taxes might be pitched at.

''Nobody actually knows for sure, that is the honest answer. I can't say that the rate of land tax should be x percent, but we need to talk about it. We are ready to raise this topic," he continued.

Other tax proposals discussed included fully exempting company expenses related to employee development and health from the fringe benefit tax, and capping social tax at three times the national average wage. The party would also make personal income tax, social tax and the unemployment insurance premium, taxes that are paid by employees, creating a personal account for each resident enabling the person to see what the tax money paid by them is spent on what services, and the cost of those services as provided by the state, it is reported.

Important to boost Estonian companies abroad

The party did not commit on raising or lowering the alcohol excise duty, which has seen recent hikes come under fire for allegedly driving consumer alcohol consumption to Latvia, where prices are lower.

Estonia 200 also wants to support the expansion of larger Estonian companies internationally, it says.

"In order to compete internationally, Estonian companies must be much larger,'' Priit Alamäe told BNS.

''The size of the company is in direct correlation with the capital available to it. Estonian companies are too small and should grow to become bigger. The purchase of foreign firms could also be supported so that foreign residents would start working for us," he continued.

This support for national ''champions'' does not mean an apparent choosing of winners by the state, however, Mr Alamäe said.

"We will not pick out companies, but will support those whose own ambition it is to expand internationally," he said.

Role of Estonian diplomatic missions

This support should be differentiated between Estonian companies in Estonia, and those abroad, Mr Alamäe continued: "We don't want a situation where there is full competition between all the Estonian companies focussed on selling in Sweden, for instance. We have, maybe, a couple hundred companies in the country which have the potential of becoming a national champion. Not all companies have that potential. However, the state must in no way create an arbitrary competition situation within Estonia''.

A concrete problem for Estonian companies abroad is obtaining a loan from Estonian banks in order to acquire an overseas company, Mr Alamäe said.

"Guarantees located abroad are very difficult for Estonian banks to realize. This is a market barrier situation where the state could be of help. We must think whether to simply export or whether we want to own pieces of the economies of other countries," he argued.

Ahti Puur, Estonia 200's top candidate in East-Viru County, added that state overseas missions should support this activity too.

"If a foreign company develops a problem in Estonia, its first step is to approach its own embassy. For Estonian companies, too, the Estonian embassy should be the place to turn to in the event of a problem," Mr Puur said, adding that the foreign activity of Estonian companies should be just as much a priority for Estonian diplomatic missions as providing security for Estonian citizens and interests abroad.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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