Reflections on an unsuccessful evening
3 weeks ago
Reform: also known as the bankers' party. The party of current prime-minister Andrus Ansip, despite having less than half of the coalition votes. Consists of business buffs; people who know how to make money. Seems to be rather effective at making money for the country and everyone in it, which gives a lot of brownie points with the voters. Such points have recently been spent on an ugly rumble concerning the statue of the Unknown Soldier, which the Reform-led government wishes to move. The statue is an eyesore because it is used as a symbol by the Russian supremacists. With no actual platform for the elections except "I'm gonna make you all rich", the PM has decided to ignore the disease and treat the symptoms, comprehensively embarassing himself in the process. Election slogan is to make Estonia one of Europe's five richest nations within 15 years; Ansip has his work cut out for him, but with 12% annual economic growth and less than 2% unemployment, people are actually starting to fancy his chances.
Centrist: the one-man party, Estonia's very own personality cult. Part of the current coalition, more MPs than Reform, but only a few ministerial seats. Led by Edgar Savisaar, the Grand Old Bastard of Estonian politics; he was in charge in '91 when the country became independent, and has wanted to be PM again ever since. Will do anything for power, which is why he's not getting the top job: all the other parties will gladly put aside their differences to keep him the fuck out. A force to be reckoned with through personal recognition - a familiar face that many vote for by default. Proportional representation means the husband & wife team of Edgar and Vilja Savisaar get enough votes between them to drag lots of objectionable but loyal creatures into the parliament (and the Tallinn city council, installing a preposterous 28-year-old mayor). Officially affiliated with Russia's pro-Putin party, gives handouts to pensioners and jobs to the boys. Takes credit for all the good things that have happened since the last election. Election slogan is a vague "rich country, good salary".
IRL: a fusion of two once-great forces now individually reduced to insignificance. The union of Isamaa (Pro Patria) and Res Publica; largest single force in the current parliament*, but still far short of the 51 votes needed to control the 101-seat chamber. Res Publica is the former PM's party, massive grassroots success in the previous round of municipal & parliamentary elections, touted itself as the "uncorruptable" party of young guns, unspoiled by insider apathy. Turned out to be equally unspoiled by competence. Pro Patria is the Estonian nationalist party; leader is Mart Laar, distinguished doubly by being both the only person in postsoviet history to hold the top job twice, and by receiving the Milton Friedman award in 2006 for a KISS approach to taxes. IRL is what passes for the right wing around here. Started off the election campaign with a slogan of "money is not happiness", to which a million cynical voices replied, "but its absense sure is misery". Their platform, unveiled today, is for the government to give every high school graduate a new laptop, and cover the interest payments on home loans for young families. Ho hum.
Social Democrats: much as you'd expect - the trade unions' party. Last anyone heard of them, they were suggesting that Tallinn's public transport be made free. Election platform is essentially "spend all the money that the Reform boffins are making". Ostensibly the clear left-wing. Pulled off a great coup earlier this year, installing Toomas Hendrik Ilves into the presidency; he's withdrawn his party affiliation, but isn't fooling anyone. Social Democrats are the Coldplay of Estonian politics: popular by being non-objectionable. In an election where choices have dwindled compared to previous occasions, and the big players all seem like the same old mess, this lot is the reluctant choice of a disgruntled electorate that can't find a particularly good reason not to vote for them.
People's Union: the farmers' party, originally. Their great coup was Arnold Rüütel, the compromise candidate in the 2001 presidency race, voted in by an electoral college of county councils. In bed with the Centrists, but corruption scandals have erased any trace of credibility. Widely expected to flop.