«Long haul» party preparing for upcoming elections

Estonia 200.

PHOTO: Konstantin Sednev

The new strategy of Estonia 200 prescribes taking part in European Parliament and the next local elections to take another shot at the Riigikogu with an updated version of its “long plan for Estonia” in four years’ time.

The board of Estonia 200 decided yesterday morning not to let failure at Riigikogu elections determine its fate. The 581-member party took 4.5 percent of the vote that is good enough for annual state budget support of €100,000 based on which Estonia 200 will operate in the future.

Chairman Kristina Kallas said that in-house analysis suggests the nearly 3,000 votes that separated Estonia 200 from the Riigikogu were lost to the Reform Party in the final stages of the campaign.

“The final polls all suggested Estonia 200 might not make the cut. Our voter used that information to make a strategic decision: to support Reform to keep the Center Party from winning the elections. Voters have told me as much. I believe we lost several thousand votes that way,” Kallas said.

The chairman added that the elections taught her party two major lessons. Firstly, balance of powers as Estonia 200 simply didn’t have the resources to convince its supporters toward the end of the campaign. Secondly, the party underestimated the willingness of competitors to make use of scandals.

“We were turned into provocateurs by the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and Objektiiv, following the baby carriage incident. We were labeled agents of Russification by Isamaa. Once that happens, you can keep talking about the long plan and ideas, but it is of no use,” Kallas reasoned.

Kallas is not bitter over people’s decision to participate in the wrestling match of the two leading parties instead of voting for her long plan for Estonia. “No, I do not blame the voter. It was political technology that got us in the end,” she said.

Despite being left out of the parliament, Kallas plans to move forward with her plan. “It is definitely not something than can be simply discarded. We are responsible people. There are many great and difficult decisions, a lot of work. I’m not convinced the coalitions we’re are likely to see are prepared for that. So, we will go on – the board’s morale was through the roof, so we will keep going,” Kallas promised.

Kristina Kallas did not say whether she will continue as chairman. The politician explained that it depends on her meeting with rector of University of Tartu on Thursday. Kallas is head of the University of Tartu Narva College but cannot continue at the helm of both organizations. “I definitely want to continue my research, no one can take that away from me. Rather, it is a question of whether I can continue as principal.”

Kallas does not believe the core of Estonia 200 could fall apart over its election result. “The level of motivation is very high today.”

The chairman said that it has been agreed to take part in European Parliament elections registration of candidate for which ends in a month. While several leading members expressed willingness to run during the board meeting, Kallas will not reveal candidates at this time. The party has not given serious thought to whether votes lost to Reform could be brought back for EP elections.

“Our goal is to raise the questions we concentrated on during Riigikogu elections. We will oppose what EKRE’s campaign will largely be based on: desire to tear down even more of the European Union,” Kallas predicted.

Former journalist Lauri Hussar, who got 1,300 votes running for Estonia 200, said that he sees no signs of the party falling apart. The board has decided to take part in EP elections after which the party will start developing regional organizations for meeting local elections.

“I registered as a member of the party and will continue as such. I’m not a member of the board, and I will likely go into business,” Hussar said regarding what’s next for him. He did not hold it likely he will return to journalism any time soon. “I cannot answer that question. Rather, I would try and do something else today, to smell life outside of the press. The experience one gathers outside of journalism is priceless. So, if you’re asking whether I would like to return today or tomorrow, the answer is no,” Hussar said.

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