Forecast: Coalition parties likely to feel effects of recent weeks

Juhan Kivirähk of Turu-uuringute.
Juhan Kivirähk of Turu-uuringute. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Recent surveys suggest the 12 weeks since the March 3 general election has not been long enough for voter patterns to change dramatically, according to head of pollsters Turu-uuringute Juhan Kivirähk, if the Riigikogu elections were to be held tomorrow. However, it is not the Riigikogu elections which are about to take place, but the European Parliamentary elections, which take place on Sunday. This is a different story.

It seems the coalition government is likely to be punished for its recent shenanigans – of the six seats up for grabs, four of them are likely to go to the two opposition parties, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), with EKRE getting and Centre getting one each, and Isamaa nothing, Kivirähk told ERR's online Estonian news.

When comparing voter preferences between March 3 and now, were "now" to be a domestic election, Green voters seem the most consistent, with 92 percent sticking with the party. Reform is next, with 90 percent, then the three coalition parties Centre (87 percent), the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE – 86 percent) and Isamaa (83 percent).

The other opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) would still retain 80 percent of its voters from the general election, and Estonia 200, which is contesting its second election on Sunday after narrowly missing out on Riigikogu seats in March, is no 78 percent.

The practically-defunct Free Party (58 percent), which had six seats at the last Riigikogu but came away with nothing in March, and Richness of Life, the other newcomer to the scene, on 42 percent, are the only parties to see large numbers of defectors, according to the surveys.

This would translate to very similar figures in terms of electoral support – with Reform still most popular on 26 percent, followed by Centre (22 percent), EKRE (18 percent), Isamaa (11 percent) and SDE (10 percent).

Estonia 200 would creep above the five percent threshold, too, to get seats, at a Riigikogu election. In Europe, with only six seats up for grabs, however, it seems unlikely they will send an MEP to Brussels.

The Kaljurand effect

There are other key differences between the European elections and those to the Riigikogu in March. Candidate names, always a major draw, are even more significant than in March (indeed, polls show that the most popular candidate, albeit from one of the least popular major parties, Marina Kaljurand (SDE), is worth two MEP seats).

Clearly, voters have a different set of criteria for the European Parliament than the Riigikogu, as Kaljurand's stellar popularity on the European stage makes not one whit of difference to SDE's Riigikogu positioning.

In fact, Kaljurand would potentially draw support from voters who normally go for the other parties – double figures in most cases (as high as 15 percent amongst Reform voters), and even six percent of those who would go for EKRE at the Riigikogu, would back Kaljurand in Europe.

As many as 34 percent of those unpledged to any party would support her too, the polls show.

The next two-most popular candidates, Yana Toom (Centre) and Andrus Ansip (Reform) have no such draw from other parties' supporters – their support, 10 percent and eight percent respectively, comes from their own party faithful.

Another man for all seasons, Raimond Kaljulaid, probably won't get enough for a seat.

The prognosis

At the same time, Reform, Centre, and EKRE as parties are notably less popular so far as Europe goes, than the Riigikogu – on around 20 percent in the first two cases, and barely above ten in the case of EKRE.

Centre is likely to suffer from the same low voter turnout, particularly among its traditional core base of Russian speaking voters, as it did in March.

Isamaa and Estonia 200 are on about the same level of populairty over both elections.

Reform may get a second MEP, but polls suggest this is more likely to be Urmas Paet, running at third on their list, than former prime minister, Taavi Rõivas, running second.

EKRE might get a seat, but for Isamaa, whose number one candidate is former head of the EDF Riho Terras, Britain dragging its heels in leaving Europe has cost them a seat – the seventh seat, had Britain left by now, may have had Terras' name on it.

Thus Sunday's results could well go like this (on the basis of candidate list orders):

  • Reform - 2 MEPs (Ansip, Paet).
  • SDE - 2 MEPs (Kaljurand, Mikser).
  • Centre - 1 MEP (Toom).
  • EKRE - 1 MEP (Poolamets).

In EKRE's case, its top three candidates, Mart Helme, Martin Helme and Henn Põlluaas, are all otherwise occupied, as ministers, or as speaker of the house. An MEP spot would be a way of getting away from the heat, however.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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