Party quarterly income figures show donations don't always convert to seats

Urmas Sõõrumaa, Olympic committee chief, donated to four parties in Q1 2019.
Urmas Sõõrumaa, Olympic committee chief, donated to four parties in Q1 2019. Source: ERR

More quarterly figures for party receipts and expenditures have been reported by BNS, revealing that the Centre Party had a slightly higher income than the Reform Party, and significantly higher than its coalition agreement partner, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Isamaa brought in significantly more than the Social Democratic Party (SDE), and Estonia 200 received a healthy amount of donations, though it didn't win any seats in 3 March election.

The first quarter figures are particularly significant, since the general election fell during this period. Parties elected to the Riigikogu receive state subsidies in proportion to seats won, and Q1 reflected the status quo before the election, at the XIII Riigikogu, rather than the makeup of the XIV Riigikogu, which only convened just after Q1 2019 ended.

Isamaa and SDE saw a fall in seats, EKRE saw almost a tripling in its representation, and the Free Party crashed out of the Riigikogu after the elections altogether, so the next round of state subsidies will take these developments into account.

On the other hand, donations, chiefly from the business community and presumably with some expected strings attached if a party gets into government, don't always translate to electoral victory, although one donor in particular covered his bases by donating significant sums to several parties.

Whereas Reform brought in €791,917 in the first quarter of 2019, split roughly 50/50 between state subsidies and donations, as reported on ERR News, Centre had the edge with €793,357.

Reform is the largest party by Riigikogu seats, following the 3 March election, with 34, with Centre in second place on 26. However, it is Centre which has been at the core of ongoing coalition talks, which culminated in a signed deal on Monday, with EKRE and Isamaa.

Proposed coalition parties:

Centre Party

The breakdown of Centre's receipts shows €421,780 in donations, and €361,760 in state subsidies.

Of donations Centre received, €160,000 came from Urmas Sõõrumaa, €20,000 apiece from Endel Siff and Sergei Belokon, and €10,000 each from Toivo Ninnas, Veiko Saluste, Andrei Žukov and Jüri Taal.

Centre also brought in €9,775 in membership fees in the first quarter, BNS reports, citing the Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK).

Campaign advertising and other expenditures from Centre were not reported; the figure for Reform was over €1.8 million. Campaign expenditure would have been higher in the first quarter than at other times, due to both the 3 March election and in preparation for May's European election.

Centre's coalition partner EKRE, which has 19 seats at the Riigikogu, received a total of about €90,000 in donations, and a similar amount in state subsidies. More on EKRE's figures is here.


Although Isamaa is the smallest of the three potential coalition parties on 12 seats, it raised close to Centre and Reform's figures, at €757,047 in the first quarter.

€567,279 of this came from donations, with Parvel Pruunsild, chair of the supervisory board of Bigbank AS, contributing €100,000. Other large sums came from Urmas Sõõrumaa, Aivar Linnamäe and Reet Roos (€50,000), Mait Meriloo (€25,000) and Marko Lind (€20,000) .

State subsidies were a little under €188,000, membership fees a little over €2,000, together with a negligible income accruing from party assets.

De facto opposition

In fact, since the proposed Centre/EKRE/Isamaa coalition led by Jüri Ratas has not been voted on at the Riigikogu, and Reform leader Kaja Kallas is the presidential nominee as prime minister (she must also face a vote at the Riigikogu and only if that fails can the Jüri Ratas-led coalition step up to the plate), nothing is set in stone in terms of who will enter into office.

Furthermore, state subsidies as noted are allocated in proportion to seats won, not whether parties are in the government or not.

The Reform party's income and expenditure breakdown is here.


Meanwhile the other ''opposition'' party, SDE, brought in €526,610 in Q1 2018, according to BNS. A greater proportion of this came in donations, at a little over €320,000, than in state subsidies, at a little over €200,000.

Donations were notably lower than to most of the other elected parties, with the largest sum being €15,375 from Jaanus Marrandi. Marek Õunamagi, Ivari Padar (an SDE MEP), Kadi Pärnits, Tõnis Rüütel, Raivo Rand and Lauri Paeveer each donated sums between €10,000 and €15,000, and outgoing SDE foreign minister Sven Mikser donated just under that, at €9,818.

The party collected €5,422 in membership fees in the first quarter.

Non-parliamentary parties

Three non-parliamentary parties also require a mention.

Estonia 200, newly formed in the second half of 2018 and narrowly missing out on Riigikogu seats, raised close to €390,000, including €130,000 from leading party member Priit Alamäe. Marek Reinaas donated €50,500, Urmas Sõõrumaa gave €40,000, and a donation made by Meelis Niinepuu amounted to €32,000.

The Free Party, which had six seats in the XIII Riigikogu but got totalled in the elections, received a little over €10,000 in donations, but ten times that in state subsidies (since it was still in the Riigikogu until the XIII session was dissolved in late February), and Richness of Life, another new party, took in €75,000, including just under €15,000 from Alexander Linnamäe, though it won no Riigikogu seats.

Figures for the Estonian Greens have not been reported.

Thus Urmas Sõõrumaa, who is also director of the Estonian Olympic Committee, clinches the award for most generous donor, hedging his bets with a total of a reported €300,000 to four different parties, Reform, Isamaa, Centre and Estonia 200. At least one of these will end up in office later in the month.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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