Yesterday saw a series of provocative posters put up in the Hobujaama tram stop in downtown Tallinn that urged Estonians and Russians to side with their own at upcoming elections. Estonia 200 is the only political party that did not deny ties to the posters.
The tram stop had six posters put up side-by-side, half aimed at the Russian-speaking part of the population and half at Estonians. The posters in Estonian read «only Estonians here» and those in Russian «only Russians here».
Every poster also exhibited a phone number dialing which one would hear the following message in either Estonian or Russian: «Hello! Riigikogu elections will take place on March 3. I will run. We Estonians/Russians need to stick together. Make sure you stand on the right side!»
All political parties, with the exception of Estonia 200, denied being connected to the campaign. The press officer of Estonia 200 initially neither confirmed nor denied the party having ordered the ad. This initial hesitation was followed by silence by all leading figures of Estonia 200.
Agencies look into the matter
Public relations chief for the city of Tallinn Ain Saarna said that he will not play the role of censor and that the content is the responsibility of the advertiser JCDecaux. The advertising agency refused to reveal who had ordered the campaign.
The ethical side of such factious tactics remains questionable during a period of elections campaigning. Chief specialist of the Police and Border Guard Board’s (PPA) communications bureau Tuuli Härson said that political outside display is permitted at this time and there are no restrictions.
«Requirements outside display must correspond to have been laid down in the advertising act and supervision, including compliance with good practice and taste, is up to local governments,» she explained.
This means that the posters need to be evaluated by Tallinn city government, more specifically, the capital’s enterprise department in charge of public transport stops.
Head of the department Kairi Vaher said the problem of the controversial posters has been brought to the agency’s attention but it has not yet decided whether to remove them. «We will discuss whether this could fall under prohibited advertising on Tuesday morning,» she said. Vaher added the department would avoid making hurried decisions.
The provocative nature of the campaign caused Postimees to contact the Estonian Internal Security Service whose representative did not provide an assessment of the posters. «Because these are very likely elections posters, the security service does not find it possible to comment even if what is depicted is provocative segregation,» an employee of the agency said.
Poor student joke
Political analyst Rein Toomla said the campaign of the segregating posters points to an attempt to get attention which makes it likely Estonia 200 is behind the campaign. He said that new parties often do strange things to make the scene: a pattern that has described Pro Patria, Estonian Greens and the Free Party in the past.
Toomla does not approve of the practice as part of an elections campaign. «It is clear an elections campaign should avoid trickery,» he said.
While some people might find this kind of political jesting amusing, Toomla believes that rather such conduct calls into question the professional character of politicians.
«It is a student-level joke,» the political scientist said. Toomla added that the posters would be perfectly fine as part of a show put on by university students. If Estonia 200 is behind the campaign, a more distinguished member of the party should have said it is not okay, Toomla found.
Chairman of Estonia 200 Kristina Kallas admitted today that the campaign was ordered by her party to demonstrate how easy it is to create a rift in society. The party replaced the posters with ones bearing the message «Estonians and Russians attending the same school» this morning.