WE WON!: Members of Estonia’s Reform Party celebrating as they hear the news that they won the elections.
TARTU - Columnist Abdul Turay pointedly wrote in last week’s Estonian daily Postimees that all larger political parties have something to be happy about. The Reform Party won. The Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and the Social Democrats increased the number of votes and Parliamentary seats gained. Even though Center Party lost places, its chairman, Edgar Savisaar, received a record-shattering 23,000 votes, which means their supporters don’t seem to care about what the press says about them.
Jorgen Siil, the international secretary of the Social Democrats and advisor to European Parliament member Ivari Padar, states that their good result wasn’t astonishing for them. “We knew that eventually the Social Democrats’ ideology would make its breakthrough in Estonian politics, and the best time for this was indeed after the economic crisis, because a lot of people have lost their jobs and for them, our message certainly gives hope. Likewise, we had done hard work for these four years, of which two years we were in the coalition. Therefore, people were familiar with our viewpoints and work. Besides, a new and charismatic leader managed to forward our messages to larger crowds,” he said.
Nevertheless, the March 6 elections mean that there are two parties less in the Parliament: the Estonian Greens and the People’s Union of Estonia. The Greens received 3.8 percent of the votes and the People’s Union only 2.1 percent, which wasn’t enough to overcome the electional threshold of 5 percent.
Greens spokesman and soon to be former member of the Parliament Aleksei Lotman gives the view that for the time being, Estonian Greens will continue being a party outside the Parliament with a goal of coming back powerfully in the next elections. “The reason for our failure was [our] smaller campaign budget and rather modest advertising, compared to the others. The outcome of the elections surprised me,” he said.
Tartu mayor Urmas Kruuse, from the Reform Party, also agrees that the People’s Union and Greens failed in the elections. “It is because Estonian Greens had serious shortcomings in its overall organizational management. The directorate even had suits against each other. The People’s Union didn’t manage to separate from their old leader and the party fell apart.”
It is certain that Estonia’s center-right government will stay in power for a full second term, says political scientist Tonis Saarts. He says that “I can firmly say that Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, and the Reform Party will form a new coalition. Negotiations with the Social Democrats are just a tactical maneuver to put pressure upon Pro Patria.”
“Altogether the outcome of the elections didn’t surprise me much. However, the big success of the Social Democrats was unexpected. There was no doubt that the results by Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and Social Democrats would improve, compared to the last elections. But it was a surprise that the main improvement was with the Social Democrats, not the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica,” he pointed out.
Siil also regards his party as one of the main winners of the elections, because they nearly doubled their returns from the last elections. “Sure enough, the coalition will be the same. Still, it is clear that the Social Democrats have a moral right to be a part of the coalition, because the will of the people shows that we are the biggest winners. It means that our voters would like to see us in the coalition, too.”
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has indicated more than once that collaboration with the Center Party is surely to be ruled out. Because of Edgar Savisaar’s connection with the Russian money scandal, other parties have been skeptical about the possibility of co-operating with them as well. The leader of the Social Democrats, Sven Mikser, stated firmly that even a theoretical possibility of leaving the Reform Party to the opposition presupposes a change in the Center Party’s administration. Savisaar replied that, if needed, he wouldn’t be an obstacle. He didn’t specify if that meant he would resign from his party leadership position.
However, Saarts is quite cautious in commenting on the probability of a presumable change of party leader Savisaar. “If some processes will take place, then it would be in the autumn. If the party will lose power in the 2013 local elections, then change would be very likely.”
Member of the Center Party and the vice-president of the Parliament, Juri Ratas, also thinks that they can’t be fully satisfied with their results. “Although we lost only three seats in the Parliament, the loss of votes in rural areas is remarkable.We will start to analyze the causes of our loss at every level. One reason for the failure was that we didn’t manage to respond quickly, with reasoned arguments to answer the questionable and amplified allegations published in the Estonian press.”
There are four large parties on the Estonian political scene, while the success of single candidates failed to appear. The main focus remains on economics, as Kruuse confirms. “Our main goal is going to be the development of the economy, because we believe that it solves the other problems for us, as the competitive economic climate is the basis of everything,” he notes.