The Progressive Post

🇪🇪 No changes on the eastern flank: Estonia votes as expected!

ESTONIA

International Secretary, Social Democratic Party, Estonia
13/06/2024

The EU elections in Estonia did not offer any big surprises, and the status quo remained in terms of the candidates and political parties. Out of seven candidates, six were members of the previous European Parliament. The EPP gained one seat, and the Renew party lost a seat. 

Far away does not matter that much!

The European Parliament election remains a second-order election despite the electorate’s discontent with the government, and despite the opposition trying to make it about internal politics. Voter turnout was only 37.7per cent (compared with 63.7 per cent for the last national parliamentary elections in 2023). Also, the funds the parties used in the elections were rather limited. Only Isamaa invested heavily and managed to pull ahead in the last week, securing a narrow win. 

Play on the weakness of the government!

The topics raised in the election campaign were unrelated to life in the EU largely because government approval ratings are relatively low. The EPP party spoke about planned changes in taxation, and they chose a very aggressive approach to the campaign. The most discussed topic related to the EU was the war in Ukraine, and political parties had very similar views. From the EU policies, the Green Deal was the topic spoken about the most because of high energy prices. People’s knowledge about the EU is very low for many reasons: MEPs are not that visible inside Estonia, journalists do not cover the European Parliament very much, and the EU itself could be too complicated for voters. 

People, people 

Voters showed their support for the candidates and chose people with strong experience in the EU: six men and one woman. The only new member is the former prime minister, Jüri Ratas. Marina Kaljurand from the Social Democratic party managed to grab a second victory in a row; out of 71,000 Social Democrat votes, she had over 45,000 votes. The EPP garnered 79,000 votes and managed to send a former prime minister from the Centre party (Renew) to Brussels with heavy money invested, playing on the discontent of voters because of the economy being in decline for nine quarters in a row. This resulted in the current prime minister’s party losing one seat. Despite their leading candidate performing strongly, the brand weakness was too much.

Low power distance

The number of debates organised in Estonia was mind-blowing. For example, the leading candidate, Marina Kaljurand, participated in so many debates that she said, “Next time, most likely all the kindergartens will also organise debates”. The number could have been around 100 (in a country of 1.3 million people). Hopefully, these debates will bring the EU much closer to people.

Future 

The elections showed that the Estonian government coalition is not doing well. It was only the Social Democrats who managed to perform well. The prime minister’s party failed, and the third coalition partner managed to garner 2.9 per cent of the votes. Most probably both parties will change leaders. The far-right candidate left the party and might be joining the EPP at the European level.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock.com/MicheleUrsi

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