07 December 2008

EuroCountdown: Estonia

Number of MEPs now: 6
Number of MEPs after 2009: 6

2004 results

Sotsiaaldemokraatlik Erakond (Social Democratic Party) - 85,433 (36.8%) - 3 seats
Eesti Keskerakond (Estonian Centre Party) - 40,704 (17.5%) - 1 seat
Eesti Reformierakond (Estonian Reform Party) - 28,377 (12.2%) - 1 seat
Isamaaliit (Pro Patria Union) - 24,375 (10.5%) - 1 seat
Eestimaa Rahvaliit (People's Union of Estonia) - 18,687 (8.0%) - 0 seats
Erakond Res Publica - (Res Publica Party) - 15,457 (6.7%) - 0 seats


Difficult. Firstly, turnout in 2004 was an abysmal 26.8%. Low turnout complicates matters: you can never be quite sure who'll visit the polls on the day.

Secondly, a new Government was elected last year: the the Reform Party is at its head, and it's in an unlikely looking Coalition with the Social Democrats and a new party formed by the combination of the Pro Patria Union and the Res Publica Party (more on that later).

So first, we turn to the Social Democrats, whose victory in 2004 must have come as a shock after their previous incarnation came sixth in the Parliamentary elections in 2003. They reverted to type in the 2007 elections though: they came fourth. Indeed, I'm guessing that their strong performance in '04 was down to two major factors: firstly, they had rebranded themselves in time to fight the contest (and it obviously worked), and secondly, they'd have been in a good position to pick up votes from hacked-off Reform and Centre supporters, with both parties being in the Government at the time. They are no longer new and they are in Government, so their main vote-getting points aren't there. Supporters of the new Government might find it more logical just to go back to the Reform Party. Others will find the Centre Party a wise destination. And the fact that they're in a right-leaning Coalition might make their left flank vulnerable. To top things off, there is now an Estonian Green Party cabable of standing in the election - there wasn't in 2004 - and again, votes could head their way. The Green vote share in 2007 wouldn't be enough for a seat, but the number of votes they picked up certainly would, based on the turnout figures from last time.

So to sum up, I don't envisage the SDE holding on to all three seats. On a bad weekend they could even fall to one, so that's a loss for the Party of European Socialists, and in terms of the gains, you can perm any combination of the Reform and Centre Parties (both of whom are in the ALDE, and it's doubtful that either party could actually do worse than in 2004), and the Greens.

On the right, things are equally messy. The merger of Pro Patria and Res Publica didn't quite work out (in 2007, they lost 14 percentage points on their combined vote share four years previously) as they'd planned but they are in Government and I wouldn't be surprised if it suits them better than it suits the Social Democrats, so my guess is that they'll hold relatively steady, and the EPP will keep its one Estonian member. If anything, they could pick up extra votes (but not seats) from the apparent decline of the People's Union. Of course, the Movement for European Reform could come a-knocking, but don't be too surprised if the IRL slams the door in its face.

So it's hard to call an electon where hardly anyone may show up, but it looks like the Social Democrats have the most to lose. It's down to the other parties to capitalise on that.

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