Editorial: partner change a boost to Reform Party

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Photo: Erik Prozes

Fresh Emor poll says popularity of Reform Party has grown to 29 percent – should Riigikogu elections happen tomorrow, that’s how many would vote for the senior coalition partner. The last time squirrels were so well liked was 1.5 years ago, in October-November of 2012. By 27 percent, soc dems come second at basically same level as last month. 

An independent confirmation to governmental parties popularity improving came by Eurobarometer data published at the start of the week: in March, 44 percent of those interviewed in Estonia trusted the government (in November of 2013, the percentage was 38). Meanwhile the EU average stands at 26 percent trust. Also noteworthy: trust towards parliament, local governments, European Union, and several other institutions is substantially above the EU average in Estonia. The often-repeated claim that our state has grown especially distant from the people does not hold water – at least in light of the trust data.

Why is Reform popularity up?  Several «culprits» come to mind. The most important and obvious change is the new coalition partner, since March. In details, the switch was very wild and weird, as we remember.

The steadfast growth of popularity would, however, show that strategically the political-technological chess rook has been to Reform Party benefit. IRL took being thrust into opposition as betrayal and injustice; even so, as their popularity has shrunk, in hindsight the voters tend to side with the winner, rather than to punish it for betrayal.

The changes-policy characteristic of Reform Party reminds one of England’s foreign policy since end of 16th century: as the English always supported the weaker of the two that battled for dominion on the continent, thus Reform Party always seeks to uplift the weaker of the competitors – at the moment. For them, the behavioural logic has spelled success.

What lies ahead? Doesn’t take a prophet, right now, to see that several of the promises written into the coalition treaty will need to be pulled back in next year’s budget. As the agreement was birthed, Postimees write in its editorial of March 21st: «Obviously we need to be ready for the variant that the coalition now birthed must demonstrate the ability to react swiftly and flexibly to changing circumstances – just like the two governments of Mart Laar and the second government of Andrus Ansip.»

Alas: the times and the dangers provide no basis to believe that the coalition could turn all of its promises, one by one, into budget items and thereby realities in lives of real people. Choices need to be made – what will stay, what will go – and that, naturally, will mean debates, upsets, and quarrels. Soc dems cannot be too sure at all that they will be the ones emerging as winners, come next elections.