Editor's prediction: Status quo remains after election
I'm going to play it safe and say that the coalition after the current election will consist of the same parties as it does currently.
What is important is not only the results of the elections – though these are crucial for getting a new prime minister – but the following talks. This could mean a party is the second largest by seats won and yet is not in the coalition. This is what happened to Centre at the last general election.
I think that Centre are going to pull it off yet, emerging with the largest number of seats, by a very slim margin over Reform. Both parties may end up with a larger number of seats than they have already, and then the prospect of power sharing may appear less appealing in that light, than it had before.
Centre are likely to want to be with the smaller parties. The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), will do well but I think the recent support surveys have been a bit flattering. Despite the heavily choreographed torchlight processions, the party is not going to threaten the big two, and could still finish below both Isamaa and SDE.
There is some common ground between Centre and EKRE, believe it or not, for instance on the position of language in education, and both Centre and Reform would probably enter into a coalition with it if they needed to, but they will not need to.
I hear the arguments that Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) are sick of each other, after four years in office together (during which time Centre replaced Reform as the major party). But I think on the day, if it was a choice between being in office, and being out, they would bite the bullet. Further squabbling might come later of course, and that is hardly going to be appealing to the major coalition party – Centre according to my thesis – so the latter would need to make clear that the former two parties aren't going to be able to rock the boat too much. And that is what the coalition talks are for.
There may be a change of leadership in the offing in both Isamaa and SDE; there are people waiting in the wings for the latter. Culture minister Indrek Saar springs to mind in that case. Obviously a change of leader might smooth things over for future coalition cooperation.
Isamaa and SDE have both been doing badly in the polls recently and now see the number of seats they got at the last election, a dozen or so in each case, now as a target, whereas at the time those figures would have been a disappointing, bare minimum.
Isamaa and SDE will survive
But both parties have a core level of support nationally. Not only is it a case of better the devil you know, but there isn't all that much alternative for voters of either, particularly for the SDE faithful. Estonia 200 cut into SDE's vote a little, but that party is flagging now, and simply does not provide a good enough reason to abandon the red party.
Isamaa proved it can stand up for itself in the recent global compact saga, and it has some choice ministries to its name and which will boost its strength in coalition talks time, even if the party drops a couple of seats on the current total. It also, quite frankly, has plenty of media support in the commercial media sector, which will keep the party well above the 5% threshold needed for seats.
If the ski doping scandal which broke in the latter half of last week affected any party negatively, it would be Reform, simply because it has the most links with the sport and its governing bodies. Former prime minister Andrus Ansip, and friend of Mati Alaver, the coach at the centre of the scandal, brushed off an ERR call to him on the matter by stating he found the incident frustrating. Mr Ansip is not running in the general election. However, former skiier Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, who had herself been under some suspicion regarding doping in the sport, is running for Reform and had spoken of her sadness about the whole affair.
It would however be very unusual for Estonians to attack one of their former sports starts, whichever party they are running for, so it is unlikely have much of an effect. Certainly Reform is in the clear, and seems to have clinched the e-vote (according to a survey which itself is conducted online), but I just can't help thinking the we're-the-natural-party-of-government attitude that sometimes pervades much that the party does and says, will put it in second place.
Prediction: Centre forms coalition with SDE and Isamaa, so not much changes
Centre has real problems with managing its regional party branches, but Jüri Ratas will receive a vote of confidence in his two-year premiership and, whilst the party and Reform are close to a level that would have been unimaginable two years ago, they are still opponents who don't need to be in office together.
Overall, there is likely to be a five party Riigikogu, down from the current six. Ironically the emergence of two new parties (Estonia 200 and Richness of Life) may have served to consolidate votes for the established players. That means the half dozen seats formerly held by the Free Party are up for grabs. These will mostly go to Reform and EKRE, but Centre can still mop up enough votes to come out the biggest party...just.
Editor: Dario Cavegn