Opinion polls not a good basis for coalition decisions, says Jüri Ratas

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the European Council in Brussels on Friday. 22 March 2019.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the European Council in Brussels on Friday. 22 March 2019. Source: ERR

Centre Party leader and incumbent prime minister Jüri Ratas has said that no political party can make decisions based on opinion polls. Centre has seen a recent decline in support according to recent polls, with a recent survey conducted on behalf of daily Postimees putting it in third place, behind Reform and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Mr Ratas, whose party is in the midst of coalition negotiations with EKRE and Isamaa, noted in a social media post on Tuesday that he has been receiving plenty of correspondence from both supporters and opponents of the potential coalition.

"Unfortunately, in politics it's never possible to form a government which has everyone's support, as some political parties and world views always remain in opposition. This is a natural part of democratic governance," Mr Ratas stated in his post.

"No political party can make its decisions based solely on opinion polls, but it would be equally wrong to disregard them. Of course, the decline in support for the Centre Party in the latest surveys concerns me. And of course I am making efforts towards winning back the trust of the party's until recent supporters, plus further expanding our support in society," he continued.

"I consider it very important to even out the divides which separate our people and to include those people who have been sidelined for whatever reason. For this, we need to understand that there are no simple solutions to major concerns. Instead of dividing lines, we need to focus more on what unites us all," he added, noting that ideas and behaviours which serve to deepen societal divide should be eradicated, both in politics and in personal attitudes. 

Centre support falling as Reform's rises

"In doing so we cannot, however, exclude people who are also searching for solutions in ideas that we personally dislike. On the contrary, we must demonstrate that society will become better for all of us in dialogue, listening to and respecting each other," he added.

According to the Postimees poll conducted by Kantar Emor in late March, Centre has seen its support drop from 23% during the elections, to 17% at present, putting it behind EKRE, which has been on 18% in Kantar's recent polls.

Meanwhile Reform has seen an increase in support over the same period, from 29% at election time on 3 March, to 32% in the latest survey.

Centre is coming into its third week of negotiations with EKRE and Isamaa, after rebuffing Reform's offer for talks just after the election. This lineup, popularly referred to as EKRE-KEI in the media, would have 57 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu, and thus a majority.

Isamaa stood at 7% in the latest poll, down from 10% at election time, where it won 12 seats, and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), which picked up 10 seats in the election, is on 11%.

Non-parliamentary party Estonia 200 is also on 10% according to the same poll, which would translate into seats at an election. In the event, the party failed, just, to pass the 5% threshold needed for seats on 3 March. It is running in the May European elections, however.

The latest EKRE-KEI coalition discussions found no common ground on the issue of making the so-called second pillar of pensions contributions, currently mandatory on the part of employees, voluntary. The proposal is a central plank of Isamaa's pre-election manifesto.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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