Marju Lauristin: Social Democrats need new point of focus

Marju Lauristin on Esimene stuudio. Oct. 17, 2019. Source: ERR

In an appearance on ETV program Esimene stuudio on Thursday evening, Social Democratic Party (SDE) board member Marju Lauristin confirmed that the party is not languishing, but does need to find a new point to focus on.

The results of a survey commissioned by ERR and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS published on Thursday morning indicated that support for the opposition SDE remains low, hovering around 9 percent. Lauristin, however, said that social democracy is not on the decline in Estonia.

"I'd say that, looking toward the future, social democracy is currently working very hard on establishing the right angle for itself, as many issues that the Social Democrats have been involved in, such as family policy, and social policy in general, have seeped into the platforms of other political parties," she said. "It seems as though that is one very good, big, unifying thing that we all want to do."

According to Lauristin, the SDE's new focus should be the future of the labor market, but also the defense of freedom and democracy.

"Social Democrats need to find that point for themselves," she said. "And I believe that point is what is going to start happening here in the future on the job market, for example, and on which we need to find answers to questions raised here — what should sustainable social protection and a social insurance system look like, where should the money come from, and what taxes should exist?"

Just as important, however, and perhaps the most important thanks to the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), is the defense of freedom and democracy.

"When [former SDE chairman] Jevgeni Ossinovski said a couple of years ago that this would become a key issue in Estonian politics, nobody believed him," Lauristin recalled. "But now everyone can see that this is becoming a key issue in Estonian politics."

She also spoke about what has happened to the previous support that the SDE has lost, noting that she has the results of a recent survey in which people who voted for the party in the latest elections were asked about their current preferences.

According to these figures, 33 percent of voters have abandoned the Social Democrats, 9 percent of which now support EKRE, 10 percent the Centre Party, and 7 percent Reform. Lauristin also highlighted that Isamaa, for example, has lost 39 percent of its supporting voters, 18 percent of whom now count themselves as EKRE supporters.

"There is a clear reason behind switching over to support EKRE, which has been a notable trend lately, the SDE board member said. "This is the point where the Social Democrats have to take a good look in the mirror. I'd say that this is a so-called punishment for our sins."

These sins aren't those of the SDE alone, however, but rather those of Estonian politics in general, and which have already been highlighted by social scientists, she continued.

'EKRE promised them a voice'

"In the year 2000, social scientists brought up the topic of 'two Estonias,' Lauristin said. "Even then it was said already that Estonia's success story would not include a significant part of Estonia — who would not see the effects of this success story, and not just materially, but who would not be given the opportunity to make their voices heard in the public sphere. The result is that there is a large number of people, especially those outside of Tallinn, who feel as though the state is steamrolling over them, and that they are at best an object for the state — maybe eve a target of goodwill, but about whom is said, 'We need to help them.' As in, we don't talk about all of us being one, but rather that we have a 'them' somewhere that we have to deal with. This is where EKRE found support, because EKRE told them, 'We will give you a voice.' This is all politicians' collective sin."

She added that Social Democrats should in principle start getting involved in regional policy, and start viewing Estonia differently.

Regarding her party's own leadership, Lauristin admitted that current SDE chairman Indrek Saar doesn't have enough political charisma.

"He lacks a certain charisma, a political momentum," she said. "But given the current situation, where Social Democrats might need more of a boost, we are feeling it."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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