Center loses home base support


PHOTO: Marianne Loorents

Tallinn's ruling Center Party has lost four points in the capital despite holding on to a comfortable lead. Reform Party and Conservative People's Party (EKRE) are gaining momentum before the local elections.

„The Center Party continues to dominate on the eve of local government council elections; however, their rating has dropped somewhat since March, especially in Tallinn – by 4 percent,“ said expert at pollster Kantar Emor, Aivar Voog. „This is probably tied to scandals in Tallinn's waste management and plans to reconstruct the Linnahall building. The Center's loss in Tallinn has mostly benefited the Reform Party.“

Social democrats' support dwindling

Voog pointed out that the Reform Party remains in second place nationwide, while support for the social democrats is down in April compared to February-March. „Social democrats' votes have probably gone to election coalitions 27 percent of voters currently plan to support come fall,“ Voog said.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that while strong support for the party lays a good foundation for the elections, it should keep the party watchful in terms of mistakes. „We cannot be involved in scandals. The party needs to take a look in the mirror here,“ Ratas admitted.

Asked why it has taken Center so long to find that mirror, Ratas said the party has been addressing its problems since November when he was elected chairman. „We have been working on putting our affairs in order since November; the Center party does not have to and must not be in court every day.“

Whence falling support in Tallinn, Center's traditional stronghold? „When it comes to Tallinn, I see us meeting the election with a strong team; we are working hard on election lists and our program. I see no problems inside the party, and we feel government responsibility. Also on the level of the Riigikogu and government.

Mayoral candidate unknown

If the Reform Party will go with Kristen Michal and EKRE with Martin Helme for mayor, the Center Party has not made a decision yet. It needs to be clear by the end of May at the latest whether it will be Taavi Aas, Mihhail Kõlvart, or someone else. „The Center Party definitely has other options; however, those two names are definitely the ones to watch,“ Ratas simply said.

The support rating of the Pro Patria Res Publica Union (IRL) – 5.5 percent in February, 4.6 percent in March, and 3.4 percent in April – is less than encouraging, with voices on Toompea Hill hinting the party's crisis is hampering the government's ability to work.

Ratas refuted rumors of a government crisis. „The atmosphere in the government is best reflected in the successful decision to ensure sustainability of health care financing. The government is businesslike,“ Ratas said. „IRL's in-house affairs have never made it onto the government's agenda, and I commend IRL for their professionalism in not bringing party tensions to the cabinet.“

Member of the Reform Party, that has spent the past 154 days in the opposition, Hanno Pevkur said the party will meet the elections with peace of mind. „We have a strong team in the capital and elsewhere, capable of offering solutions to take local life forward. It is probable nationwide topics will first and foremost affect the result in Tallinn, which is will largely be a choice between Center and Reform in the capital,“ Pevkur said. „The Center Party's members-centered city management style does not fit future-oriented governance. It is up to the citizens whether Tallinn will be freed from the Center's yoke or not.“

The local government elections are scheduled to take place on October 15.