TALLINN - Two coalition partners, the Center Party and the Reform Party, appeared to make an early election appeal to the electorate by launching an intense campaign aimed at supporting freedom of speech. Numerous posters have appeared throughout Tallinn showing young political members and other party symbols.
Opponents have accused the parties of breaching the law on elections, which prohibits the use of outdoor political advertising. The Centrists and Reformists, they pointed out, are two of the richest parties and can afford to carry out such PR campaigns.
Indeed, the parties' bold move, coming months before the official start of municipal elections, has opened the debate of party finance and shown that political parties in Estonia have remarkably different layers of butter on their bread. Sources of income, such as state subsidies and membership fees, are readily available, and the Eesti Paevaleht daily recently reported the extent of partisan wealth.
One way to tally financial support is by calculating the number of parliamentarian mandates each party has and how much state support is allocated. On this basis, the state budget was the most well disposed toward to the ruling Center Party and opposition Res Publica, as they were granted 8.2 million kroons (529,000 euros) each at the beginning of 2005.
The Reform Party, whose ranks include Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, received 5.6 million kroons from the state, while the People's Union managed to get 3.8 million kroons. Meanwhile, Pro Patria received slightly over 2 million kroons and the Social Democrats 1.7 million.
In total, the state has spent 29.8 million kroons, or nearly 2 million euros, on political parties.
Donations and dues form a substantial part of parties' income. The Centrists, for example, received two generous contributions 's 200,000 kroons each 's from Oleg Harlamov, former head of the Baltic News Service, and Peeter Taim, chairman of a Tartu teetotalers association.
In total, the Centrists received donations of 981,275 kroons during the first quarter.
For the Reformists, Toomas Luman, president of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, turned out to be the kindest patron, donating a record 300,000 kroons 's out of a total 780,369 kroons donated to the party.
For Res Publica, the biggest donor was Juri Shuba, chairman of the board of the port machinery company Alekon, with 100,000 kroons. Together with other contributors, the right-wing party mustered 283,182 kroons in the first quarter.
The People's Union raised 118,790 kroons, 50,000 of which came from Agriculture Minister Ester Tuiksoo.
Finally, the Pro Patria Union had to be content with 158,173 kroons (Toomas Luman spread his wealth and give the party 50,000 kroons), while the Social Democrats received 57,317 kroons from its benefactors.