kolmapäev, veebruar 14, 2007

Three Weeks Until Valimised 2007!

Poor, charismatic Edgar Savisaar. He's got his own blog. He paints his face with the Estonian flag. Most people like his wife. By all accounts, he could be a great prime minister. Except ... for so many things, most memorably, his efforts to install Arnold Rüütel through the backdoor during last year's presidential elections, despite overwhelming public support for Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

That blew up in his face, although everyone said he had it in the bag ahead of the electoral college vote. So the big question is, will the Keskid blow this year's valimised the same way?

Right now in the polls available, Keskerakond has a small lead over Reformierakond. Ansip has been hit both by the bribery scandal and the pronksmees mess. Third place is now occupied by the Rohelised, who are playing a similar role to Res Publica in 2003, the party you don't know much about but hope will change the tone in Tallinn.
IRL is headed by Laar, who is busy doing a hundred other things, the Sotsid lack charismatic, outspoken leaders to propel them to victory and Eestimaa Rahvaliit is nearly invisible.

Having achieved two major goals for the state in 2004 -- joining NATO and the European Union -- Estonia's political parties basically find themselves swimming in a sea of slime campaigns, using the ghost of the Soviet Union or rumors of corruption to "scare" voters into voting one way or the other. It's not pretty.

Right now, there seem to be two probably outcomes -- a right-wing government with Ansip at the helm, or a left-wing government with Savisaar running the show. Which means the elections are really in the hands of the Rohelised and with whom they choose to form a coalition. What do you think? Come April, who will be prime minister?

38 kommentaari:

Scott ütles ...

I know the president personally, although we've only talked once in the last year.

I know him well enough that he has a chance to stick it to Savisaar, he will do so without hesitation. He hates him with a passion.

If he can find a way for the center-right parties to form the coalition, he will do so, even though he's from a center-left party.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Scott,

Tom has publicly said that whoever wins the most votes will be given the opportunity to form a coalition, so based on all current polls Savisaar will have the first shot at becoming Prime Minister. Knowing the state of Estonian politics Kesk won't have a problem finding a partner to work with since all the politicians want is power and they don't care what devil they have to sleep with to get it.

kari ütles ...

well reform will be in charge this way or another. it is just the same play all over again - before the election they try their hardest to distance themselves from their partners and especially the Edgarparty. After the election they'll team up with whoever is avaiable regardless of their promises.
the idea their edgar is playing multiple hands at the same time is a fact.all i can do i just hope for the best and try to convince people to vote for my favourite party.

Giustino ütles ...

How come people don't vote for the sotsid? Most people I speak with don't have anything bad to say about them. But they don't seem particularly motivated to vote for them, either.

Andres ütles ...

I for one ain't exactly sure what the social democrats are after. With Reform you know - less taxes, Kesk gives you an extra 500EEK, IRL if you're anti-Kesk, Rahvaliit when you're a farmer and don't know of any better options. But Sotsid.. talking something about unions and social agreements etc.. come on, Estonians can't agree on one thing unanimously :P "JOKK JÄTTA!" was memorable yes, but that should have been followed by something that actually offered an alternative to JOKK. Something like that didn't follow, just ads about owls. IRL had a vague first slogan too (Õnn pole rahas!), but now at least they manage to show alternatives (Õnn on terves mõistuses, õnn on terves peres etc). Sotsid are kinda in the dark. I wish they'd come out, because they seem like a good choice to vote for. But they're too unknown.

kari ütles ...

an interesting idea. i would vote for them if i had more votes. i too have nothing against them but i just got a better party to spend my vote on. besides as most people will not vote for them i have very little reason to waste mine.

Toivo ütles ...

".. the party you don't know much about but hope will change the tone in Tallinn."

What do you want to know about rohelised ...?

Anonüümne ütles ...

besides as most people will not vote for them i have very little reason to waste mine.

Hmm, this is a sad statement. Strategic voting like this is what causes small parties to remain small and big parties which no one really wants to win stay in power. Personally, I believe you should vote for the party you believe in the most regardless of their chances of winning.

notsu ütles ...

Winning or not, I think sotsid will at least get enough votes to get some places in Parliament, so no votes given to them are wasted.

kerho ukkonen ütles ...

Tell me, how come it takes only two parties to sufficiently cover the wants and aspirations of every American and gazillion parties to do the same in Estonia? What gives?

andres o ütles ...

Does anyone have the chutzpah to get behind a single candidate or party and explain the reason why? It seems to me that so far most potential voters have been somewhat ambivalent and tagasihoidlik. Maybe it’s just that the choices aren’t that great, but with all the candidates and platforms represented, shouldn't there be at least one worthy of getting a little extra attention? It could just be that there are too many candidates and it’s hard to focus on any single one just like it’s hard to find a channel on cable when you have hundreds to choose from.

Kari, if you were willing to share which party you supported and why, I think that it could only help their chances, even if some disagree with your assessment. I’m especially curious because I have the opportunity to vote in Estonian parliamentary elections this coming Sunday and it has been made pretty clear to me that it is important to vote for a party other than KESK.

Kerho, I would characterize your assessment of the US political system as tongue in cheek. From personal experience, I assure you that when the only choices are GW Bush and John Kerry, “the aspirations of every American” are not sufficiently covered.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I'm currently reading Savisaar's memoirs of the early 90's that have been translated into Finnish. Quite interesting stuff - I don't exactly understand why he seems to be such a polarizing figure. (My wife certainly can't stand even the thought of him, and seems to be quite typical Estonian in this.) I guess he quite the Kekkonen type: power hungry and ruthless, and capable of playing the (ethnic) Russian card? Or is this completely wrong assessment?

Giustino ütles ...

What do you want to know about rohelised ...?

Not much. But how much did we know about Res Publica in 2003? I seem to remember Juku Parts learing at me and telling me to "vali kord" - choose order.

It seems to me that so far most potential voters have been somewhat ambivalent and tagasihoidlik.

The thing is that nobody elected Ansip prime minister. The people elected either Savisaar or Parts in 2003, an Parts was able to form the government. Ansip has been basically a placeholder until 2007, although he obviously is relishing the job.

The largest party in the Estonian government today is IRL - the rightwing party. They have 32 seats. No wonder they are driving the agenda!

Then KESK and Reform each have 22, which is why they are essentially equals in Riigikogu, though Ansip has the top spot.

Then you have the smaller parties. Rahvaliit has 13 seats, which is totally disproportionate to their support today. Sotsid will probably maintain the same amount of support.

So the _real_ question is, will this election be a rejection of 2003? That means, will IRL come back in April with less seats than they had before? The answer seems to be yes.

If the Keskid win the most votes,
will the Rohelised and Sotsid be willing to form a left-wing government with them, or will they choose to form a government with Reform, with KESK playing the same role that IRL plays in government now?

Flasher T ütles ...

Who will be PM? My best suggestion is, someone in Reform but not Ansip. Savisaar has antagonized enough people to not get the absolute majority like he did in Tallinn, Rahvaliit is dead in the water, and every other viable candidate can be convinced to form yet another "anyone but Savisaar" coalition.

A funny option would be a coalition with Laar in the top job, but he's implicated in the pronksmess as much or more as Ansip, so that won't happen.

Flasher T ütles ...

Knowing the state of Estonian politics Kesk won't have a problem finding a partner to work with since all the politicians want is power and they don't care what devil they have to sleep with to get it.

I think you're underestimating the extent to which the other politicians hate Savisaar. The current coalition has been flying on a wing and a prayer, the prospect of Savisaar as PM is too much.

Flasher T ütles ...

How come people don't vote for the sotsid?

Estonia has been very successful with a laissez-faire approach. SDE is too touchy-feely for the general public, as well as being perceived as the trade union party. All of Estonian nationalism cannot outweight Estonian individualism; the nation is not quite ready for a welfare state, so the social democrats are struggling.

Flasher T ütles ...

What do you want to know about rohelised ...?

Are they reasonable or are they Guardian-spec ecomentalists? Will they make us all drive Priuses?

Flasher T ütles ...

Tell me, how come it takes only two parties to sufficiently cover the wants and aspirations of every American and gazillion parties to do the same in Estonia? What gives?

Actually the two parties cover the wants and aspirations of barely half the eligible American voters. Out of that, 40% always vote for one party and 40% always vote for the other, and the 20% undecided in the middle are the ones who affect the outcome.

The reason why multiparty works in Estonia but not in the US is because Estonia is a parliamentary republic, and the US is a presidential republic. The President runs the country and needs congressional support. You'd need the presidential candidates to run on a faction ticket, not a party ticket, to introduce any sort of multiparty Congress, and even then it would not work as well as a coalition government in a parliamentary republic.

Flasher T ütles ...

I don't exactly understand why he seems to be such a polarizing figure.

He's not only power-hungry, he is very nepotistic. It may be called the Centrist Party, but it is very much Team Edgar, and he takes care of his own, no matter how many times he gets caught. In addition, he is the last viable old-school politician; Laar is perceived as the guy who gave us the tax system, while Savisaar is the guy who's been around since the Soviet days.

kerho ukkonen ütles ...

Flasher, it is very good of you to inform me and I thank you for that!
The U.S. being a presidential republic really explains it.

Kaarel ütles ...

well, I can tell that I'm voting for Social Democrats, simply because I don't share the ideas of IRL, Reform and Rahvaliit. So, despising Kesk's rhetorics and actual behaviour, the only viable choice is SDE. Greens are nice (I really, really would like to vote for Villu Tamme), but they're too "green" - they lack experience and credibility (I've read their electoral platform, y'know - just some general essay talking about how we should make Estonia a better place). And, being a leftie, I could hardly vote for guys that get cheered by Employers' Union - I know that Tarmo Kriis is never up to any good, so the choice is simple.

plasma-jack ütles ...

kaarel was me again, damn google and their employer NSA

(right now i feel the need to mention keywords like bin laden, al-qaeda, bomb - now these guys have something to analyze, at least)

andres o ütles ...

According to this article it looks like Greens/rohelised party has surged in popularity, any theories as to why?

KESK Leads, Greens Now Third in Estonia

Am I correct in understanding that in order for a party to receive any seats in parliament they need to receive at least 5% of all votes cast?

If that’s the case then I am leaning towards voting for sotsid to help push them over the 5% threshold, giustino and plasma-jack, I appreciate your input.

Andres ütles ...

Yes, the election threshold in Estonia is 5%. In other words if any party gets 4.5% of votes, they get no parliament seats.

andres o ütles ...

Wow, seems to me that in this system an individual vote actually counts!

Giustino, I think that coming from New York you would agree that in the winner-take-all method of the US electoral college system used to elect the president, there's little chance your vote for US president counts when you live in an overwhelmingly Democrat state like NY. US presidential candidates do very little campaigning in states like New York because all the votes from that state almost always go to the Democrat party candidate (Reagan in 1984 being a notable exception.)

Estonian system to me is much more reasonable because it seems like a person can cast a vote for a platform that more accurately reflects one's own interests.

Toivo ütles ...

Are they reasonable or are they Guardian-spec ecomentalists? Will they make us all drive Priuses?
yes. plus you have to eat carrots (we will set a daily quota)

I've read their electoral platform, y'know - just some general essay talking about how we should make Estonia a better place)
yehh, other have realistic and measurable objectives. like giving out 500kr, increasing happiness, decrasing taxes etc.

Flasher T ütles ...

According to this article it looks like Greens/rohelised party has surged in popularity, any theories as to why?

General disgust with the major players, IRL included. The pronksmess is in no way a representation of the will of the people; there is a small percentage of haters, but the absolute majority of the population would really like for this headache to just go away somehow.

Wow, seems to me that in this system an individual vote actually counts!

Um, well. It does count to an extent, and they changed the system at some point so now the candidates with the most individual votes get in, not just whoever's at the top of the list. But the 5% entry barrier is one of a host of measures specifically designed to keep fringe candidates out. Back in the day, we actually had a Royalist Party in parliament - fun guys actually, one of them started a sovereign kingdom in a small municipality that was left unaccounted for in the administrative reform. Had their own money and everything; most stable currency in the world at the time, one unit was equivalent to a half-liter bottle of vodka in the village shop.

Flasher T ütles ...

Hey, I like carrots.

I actually wrote a long blog post on how a country's political system needs to work, if anyone's interested: http://www.antyx.net/2006/11/flashers-republic.html

kari ütles ...

well my vote definately matters more than for example in the USA but if i vote for a party that gets for barely over the threshold it usually does not wield a lot of power. if i get to choose between two parties i equally like it would make more sense to vote for the most popular party as my views are most likely to be respected . just for the record, if the elections would be held tommorrow i would vote for IRL

Flasher T ütles ...

if i vote for a party that gets for barely over the threshold it usually does not wield a lot of power.

Ah, but that's the thing - in a parliamentary republic with a near-inevitability of a coalition government, the small party can have a lot of power. If SDE's six votes mean the difference between Savisaar being PM and Savisaar being Minority Leader, then SDE can ask for a chest of gold and a purple unicorn, and they'll get it.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm currently reading Savisaar's memoirs of the early 90's that have been translated into Finnish. Quite interesting stuff - I don't exactly understand why he seems to be such a polarizing figure.

Like I said, he's charismatic. A lot of people wouldn't agree, but when you see him on TV, you pay attention.

Savisaar grew up in Tallinn in the 1960s and 1970s. Like all good Tallinners, I bet he watched a lot of Finnish TV, and I bet that Kekkonen is a major influence on him.

plasma-jack ütles ...

yehh, other have realistic and measurable objectives. like giving out 500kr, increasing happiness, decrasing taxes

My advice: read them all through, if you are interested in the subject. Compare them. I'm not saying that Greens wouldn't apply a policy when in power, I'm just saying that it isn't possible to figure it out when reading their programme. Anybody else seem to know what they're doing. But I do personally believe in Villu Tamme and maybe some others. But Villu ain't gonna make it to the Riigikogu.

Martasmimi ütles ...

[Tell me, how come it takes only two parties to sufficiently cover the wants and aspirations of every American and gazillion parties to do the same in Estonia? What gives? ]

[Estonian system to me is much more reasonable because it seems like a person can cast a vote for a platform that more accurately reflects one's own interests.]

The two party system does not always allow for a voter to reflect his or her own interests..
If you dilute the vote (too many parties) you run the risk of a situation like what took place with the Palestinian elections ...a good friend who is from there said that Hammas won the election because every person with an agenda ran for office..Hammas was the most organized of all of them and they won the majority.
He say's that most of the people were unhappy with this outcome.
I voted for Kerry in the last US Election He did not represent
all of my views and concerns..
....but Bush represented none of them...

Scott ütles ...

[Tell me, how come it takes only two parties to sufficiently cover the wants and aspirations of every American and gazillion parties to do the same in Estonia? What gives? ]

[Estonian system to me is much more reasonable because it seems like a person can cast a vote for a platform that more accurately reflects one's own interests.]


The problem I see with parliamentary democracy in Estonia, and Europe more generally as it is practiced, is that although you might vote for a party that might more accurately reflect your viewpoints, the parties assemble "lists" of their candidates, although who you are going to have representing you from the party is really unknown until after the election is over. That means there's some bait-and-switch going on.

Plus, there's no direct election of either the prime minister or the president. Did anybody really select even the electors that decided the presidential runoff? At least the electoral system in the U.S. is a more accurate representation of the people's will.

Third, a problem with the parliamentary system is that fringe groups can have a disproportionate influence in the politics of the country by threatening to bring down a coalition they are a part of. For example, in the Cz Republic, the instillation of the anti-ballistic missile radar is in doubt because the Communists -- the Communists, for god's sake -- are threatening to bring down the parliamentary coalition.
At least in the two party system, there are crazies on both sides, but they are moderated through the primary process. You end up with a lot fewer Jean-Marie Le Pen's having influence that way.

Scott ütles ...

stockholm slender said...
I'm currently reading Savisaar's memoirs of the early 90's that have been translated into Finnish. Quite interesting stuff - I don't exactly understand why he seems to be such a polarizing figure. (My wife certainly can't stand even the thought of him, and seems to be quite typical Estonian in this.) I guess he quite the Kekkonen type: power hungry and ruthless, and capable of playing the (ethnic) Russian card? Or is this completely wrong assessment?


Stockholm slender, I would boil the anti-Savisaar argument to these points:

He's the Richard Nixon of Estonia, most definately corrupt, power hungry, and authoritarian in his tactics.
He was prime minister in the last days/first days of independence, but the economy went into the dumpster, and he lost his post. Can't really blame him for that.
However he left politics in the early 90's after a scandal where his political opponents (including Ilves) were taped without their knowledge. This is when he was Minister for Internal Affairs.
He resurrected himself as Mayor of Tallinn a few years later (probably the third-most important political position in Estonia, actually), did a good job of running the city's finances into the ground while giving sweetheart contracts to his political supporters.
He champions ethnic Russian interests in Estonia, but has made the Center Party an extension of Putin's Unity Party by signing formal cooperation agreements with it.
He's tried to make control over Estonian (public) TV and Radio politically appointed positions. He's flouted political advertising laws regarding campaigning (especially in the last election) with impunity.
He tried to subvert the presidential election by not allowing his own party members to vote on a candidate. That sent it to the electors, which he though his candidate, Ruutel would win. There was an agreement between the parties of Ruutel and Savisaar that if Ruutel became president again, they would help Savisaar become prime minister.
Edgar got shot with his own gun on that one, as Ilves won with a couple-vote margin. He then intimated that the vote was fixed, and that Ilves was a puppet of the CIA.
And on, and on ... ;-)
I've got to give some credit to him. He's a wily politician, probably the only white-knuckle fighter here. But Estonia will be much better off with him off the political scene.
He's got a hot younger wife, also a parliamentarian, although she's an idiot and a homophobe.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Cheers, that clarifies the question considerably! Estonian politics seem to be much more colourful compared with our grey consensus style on the other side of the Gulf of Finland... Now, this might be provocative but on the question of homophobia I really think that almost the whole Estonian society seems to be infested by it. Curiosly oldfashioned attitudes...

Andres ütles ...

I think the Estonian system is pretty good, because when we look at the UK and the USA, where the winner takes it all, I think our system is more just.

Just an interesting fact:
At the 2005 UK parliamentary elections the labourists got 35.2% of votes, yet managed to acquire 55.2% of seats in parliament. The liberal party got 22% of votes, yet was left with only 9.6% of parliament seats. That system does not represent the people in a fair way in my opinion.

Giustino ütles ...

Savisaar really blew it with opposing Ilves, considering they probably have similar opinions on a number of issues - the Center Party's populist schtick meshes well with Ilves' "man of the people" speeches.

If Edgar had gotten behind Ilves - a Social Democrat - he might be in a different position these days. I am not saying that Ilves would stop disliking Edgar, but Savisaar just looked like a bitter idiot when Ilves won. And Ilves - who I think is a pretty centrist Estonian politician at least as president - shouldn't have aroused that much opposition from the Center Party, of all parties.