Centre and Pro Patria spend most on electioneering to year end 2018

An example of pre-election outdoor advertising, in this case from Centre (foreground) and Pro Patria (background).
An example of pre-election outdoor advertising, in this case from Centre (foreground) and Pro Patria (background). Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

According to end of year financial reports, the parties which have spent the most on electioneering are Centre and Isamaa/Pro Patria, each splashing out in excess of quarter of a million Euros to year end.

By comparison Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) have spent in the region of €116,000 on same, down to year end 2018, with the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) spending €87,000, and the Free Party €50,000.

Centre is the largest of the three governmental parties; SDE and Pro Patria are its partners. Reform is the largest opposition party (in fact, the largest of all the parties in terms of Riigikogu seats) and have been virtually neck-and-neck with Centre in recent ratings polls. EKRE is the second largest opposition party in terms of support; Free is lagging far behind, down to just 1% support in the most recent polls, though the party has half a dozen seats.

Not the whole picture

Of the non-parliamentary parties, new kid on the block Estonia 200 spent a reported €43,000 on campaigning to year end 2018, with an even newer grouping, the Will of the People party, parting with €14,000. The Estonian Greens spent €9,400. The other new party, Richness of Life, spent a reported €62.

Several caveats need to be made here, however. In terms of overall finances. Parties which spent the most are not necessarily the most well off. For instance, Centre may have spent more than twice Reform down to year end 2018, but the party is in debts of around €400,000 compared with Reforms €200,000. Pro Patria similarly spent much more than SDE, but it received slightly less in state subsidies (around €188,000 for Pro Patria compared with over €200,000 going to SDE to end of Q3 2018). On the other hand, Pro Patria has no reported debts, whereas SDE reported debts over €100,000 to end of Q3 2018.

State subsidies are due to all parliamentary parties, in proportion to the number of seats held.

Moreover, the party spending figures only cover the period up to 31 December 2018. Many parties, not least Reform, will have stepped up their campaigning since then, and the full overview of spending to the end of January, when outdoor advertising by law has to cease, will not be known until after the election (social media campaigning can continue beyond this date).

One reason for Richness of Life's notably low spend is that, as a non-parliamentary party, it would have not received any state subsidy. This is also the case for the Greens, and newcomers Estonia 200 and Will of the People, though the latter parties would probably have private donations behind them. Estonia 200 reported €66,000 in donations for Q4 2018, for instance.

Expect more spending in the last weeks of campaigning

There will also be differences on how parties report their expenditure, with some bringing their expenditure over to Q1 2019, and others already reporting the bulk of theirs to Q4 2018.

Centre had earlier expected its overall election campaigning to cost it in the region of €1 million, Reform as much as double that.

Election campaign report preparation and submission is regulated by the Political Parties Act 1994; party election campaign financial report must be submitted to the Estonian Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK) within one month following election day.

The general election is on 3 March 2019.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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