Reform Party’s popularity declining: no more «Kaja effect» or low wage earners’ support

Loora-Elisabet Lomp
, Eesti uudiste päevatoimetaja
The «Kaja-effect» of the Reform Party has disappeared, at least that's what it seems from the ratings.
The «Kaja-effect» of the Reform Party has disappeared, at least that's what it seems from the ratings. Photo: Madis Veltman

Support of the leader of the political parties’ ratings, the Reform Party, has been in decline for a little over a month, while at the same time, the popularity of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) has increased, being almost at the same level as its all-time maximum.

According to Martin Mölder, a researcher at the Skytte Institute of Political Studies of the University of Tartu, the realignment of parties’ support is continuing. “The Reform Party has lost almost four percentage points from the peak of its support in mid-June, and in the last four weeks the decline has been remarkably fast.

At the same time EKRE has dramatically improved its support and has gained more than five percentage points of support since the forming of Kallas’ new government,” said Mölder, adding that EKRE's support is almost the same as in the fall of 2021, on the eve of the local election. In addition, Estonia 200 has improved its positions in recent weeks.

“In case of the Reform Party, it is first noticeable that the “Kaja effect”, which pushed up the growth of their support, has somewhat decreased. The party's support among women is still significantly higher than among men, but this gap has narrowed considerably in recent weeks. In general, it seems that the decline in support for the Reform Party in recent weeks has occurred primarily outside their core electorate – among people with less education and smaller income,” Mölder noted. He added that the increase in EKRE's support seems to be much more broad-based. “In recent weeks, lower support has been observed only among younger voters and voters without children. The national conservatives have improved their positions in all other main voter groups,” the political scientist explained.

Could EKRE get ahead of the Reform Party in a couple of weeks? “I think that this will not happen in a couple of weeks; there can still be some fluctuation back and forth. But in the perspective of a month and a half, it could be quite realistic that the support of EKRE and the Reform Party will become equal”, Mölder answered.

EKRE rested in the summer but is now picking up speed

“Of course, we rested a bit in the summer – it's no secret – we were a little less in the limelight,” EKRE chairman Martin Helme told Postimees when commenting on the ratings. According to him, the figures show that EKRE is talking about the crises – livelihood and the energy crisis – which the Reform Party does not want to mention, and the people have finally grasped this fact. “And this crisis (the war in Ukraine - ed.), which the Reform Party wants to talk about, has lost its acuteness,” Helme explained.

“The shock of February and March – and what the mood was like then – increased the popularity of the Reform Party by 10-15 percent. Such a shift in support has not been seen in the history of Estonia since we regained independence. But it has basically exhausted its effect. And before the elections, people's attention is focused on real things,” added Helme.

So why is it that EKRE support has decreased among the younger people and people without children? Helme replied that people who are no longer helped by slogans have turned to their party. The party simply does not address yet those young and childless people who, for example, receive support from their parents or still live with their parents; all this would reach them with a small delay. “But basically, all those people who have to cope from payday to payday have no one else to look to but our political party,” Helme assured and cited as an example how the other political parties keep saying that, despite the difficulties, we should continue with the green transition.

Will EKRE reach the same popularity level as the Reform Party in a month and a half? “We were the most popular political party in Estonia for four months since September of last year. The way it happened was that we had very high support and the Reform Party fell with a crash, fell from 30 percent to 20 percent. Fell through the glass floor they thought was our glass ceiling. The dynamics of the first place always depend on one doing well and the other doing badly. Would we get to 30 percent? I would not be so bold right now,” answered Helme. He explained that the most important thing for the party right now is to keep those people who have already reached EKRE. “Unless the Reform Party falls significantly, we still have a long way to go to reach 30 percent,” Helme added.

Mart Võrklaev, the chairman of the Reform Party faction, told Postimees that the political parties' support figures reflect the decisions we have adopted in the government and the coalition during this summer and autumn.

“Extraordinary investments in the defense of Estonia, supporting people during an energy war, and the transition to education in the Estonian language are the things that the people of Estonia need now, and the 31 percent support is a strong recognition for what we have done and for which we must be very grateful to our supporters,” said Võrklaev.

“I believe that if we move forward with the state budget process, we will be able to further introduce these decisions to the people of Estonia.”