esmaspäev, märts 05, 2007

Estonia's Elections in a Nordic Context

I often feel that political analyses of the situation in Estonia leave out the most obvious. While journalists type away about Estonia's relations with Russia, they fail to see that its political climate is quite similar to many others in Europe, but
especially other nordic countries. In fact, trend watchers should view Estonia within the nordic context if they wish to better understand Estonian politics.

The first point is this: economically liberal parties are on the ascent across northern Europe. In Estonia's case, it's to get away from a post-communist legacy that most agree left the country underdeveloped and uncompetitive. In other nordic countries though its the critique of the high-tax, Scandinavian "social welfare" model - often described as a a northern European balancing act to communism.

In Denmark, the economically liberal, centre-right Venstre Party has been in power under the leadership of Anders Fogh Rasmussen since 2001. Center-Right parties also came to power in Sweden last year under Fredrik Reinfeldt. And in Finland, across the gulf, Matti Vanhanen's Centre Party, also considered economically center-right, has the most seats in the Eduskunta.

The second point is this: nativist or nationalist parties are also polling well up north. As opposed to the way Pravda views it, Isamaa-Res Publica Liit aren't a remote case of the post-commie fascist blues. They've got cousins in other kindred northern countries like Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party, which polls as well in Denmark. In Finland, Isamaa can find kindred politicians in Kokoomus. This is a nordic phenomenon that isn't occuring in a vacuum.

Finally, most governments in power in nordic Europe are increasingly viewing Russia as a threat, not just Estonia. As Edward Lucas notes in his blog, Norway and Sweden are also now viewing Russian energy plans as possible security threats. All of this leads me to urge others to realize that Estonian politics are hardly happening in a bubble. Estonian is a northern European country, and these are current northern European issues.

34 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Here a tidbit of Norwegian populism. Carl I Hagen:
"Asylsøkerne er på vei å ta over vårt fedreland"
'Asylseekers are on the way to take possession of our fatherland'

He is a well known politician in our koselig Norway. Quote from indymedia.no

Ray Crowley (publisher) ütles ...

any graphics yet on geographic voter turn-out?

Janek ütles ...

http://www.vvk.ee/r07/paev.stm

As you can see voter turn-out was the lowest in IDA-VIRU county -- It is mostly populated by russian speaking people and over 55% chose the Center Party (left liberal-socialist-populist party).

Ray Crowley (publisher) ütles ...

Perfect, thank you Janek.

One other question: were Estonian citizens living abroad enfranchised to vote? I am thinking in particular of young Estonians spending a few years in other EU countries.

lounamaa ütles ...

Yes, Estonian citizens living abroad were able to vote electronically, by mail or at Estonia's foreign missions. I am pretty sure that most of them did not make use of the opportunity, however.

bunseni ütles ...

Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party,

Estonia in World Media ütles ...

as far as it is known Estonian voters abroad vote according to their registration in Estonia. If they have lost their registration however they can chose to register their vote anywhere.

bunseni_lamp ütles ...

Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party is a far right populist party, quite similar to what Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider have in France and Austria. Kokoomus would not be happy in this company, as it is a moderate right party. I'd like to think Isamaa also wants to belong to this moderate right wing. BTW, far right loonies have always been a downright minuscule part of Finland's political landscape, unlike Norway and Denmark with their Hagen's and Kjaersgaards -- our populist right is represented by Perussuomalaiset which has only few members in parliament.

Giustino ütles ...

Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party is a far right populist party, quite similar to what Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider have in France and Austria. Kokoomus would not be happy in this company, as it is a moderate right party. I'd like to think Isamaa also wants to belong to this moderate right wing.

Isamaa gets called what the Danske Folkepartei gets called: "fascists", "nativists", "nationalists" et cetera.

These parties aren't carbon copies of one another, but they inhabit a similar void. Isamaa appeals to the "Estonian people", in the same way that Dankse Folkepartei tries to appeal to the "Danish people."

Martin ütles ...

Isamaa gets called what the Danske Folkepartei gets called: "fascists", "nativists", "nationalists" et cetera.

These parties aren't carbon copies of one another, but they inhabit a similar void. Isamaa appeals to the "Estonian people", in the same way that Dankse Folkepartei tries to appeal to the "Danish people."


That is a gross mis-characterisation of what Isamaa represents. I agree with bunseni_lamp that Isamaa is a moderate right party.

Martin ütles ...

In fact, for an idea what space Pro Patria occupies in European politics see here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Democrat_Union
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_People%27s_Party
To claim Mart Laar's party are fascist is nonsense, it's like claiming Merkel's or Thatcher's parties are fascist.

Martin ütles ...

Sorry I seem to be going on and on about this, but I gaged and sprayed coffee all over my keyboard through my nose when I read your views on Isamaa.

FYI, Isamaa's cousins in Denmark are the Konservative Folkeparti, not the Danske Folkepartei, as you claim.

space_maze ütles ...

The only Estonian party that gives me vibes of Haider-esque-ness is Iseseisuvpartei - a party that seems to be completely irrelevant.

Mind you, I don't actually know much about the party, or its policies.

oliver ütles ...

You didn't happen to catch the evening news, did you?
Some woman from the street called Galina was very disappointed: Reform - "это профашистская организация" (pro-Fascist organization). Lovely.I wonder what that makes IRL...
Some of our local countryman and Russian (foreign and domestic) press uses the term "ultra-right", "fascist" and so on when talking about IRL. It's totally absurd - party, which contributes probably the three most intelligent members of our new Parliament (Ergma, Tulviste, Aaviksoo) and has a professional "freedom promoter" Laar as their leader can't be anything like that.

Someone asked about the citizens abroad. This is how they voted.
IRL 59,4%! What the hell?!

Janek ütles ...

My point of view:

Reformierakond - liberal
Keskerakond - liberal + socialist
Isamaa ja Respublica Liit - liberal + conservative
Rahvaliit - socialist + conservative
Sotsiaaldemokraatlikerakond - socialist
Roheline erakond - nfi yet. Don't act like "normal" greens.

Radical parties like Iseseisvuspartei, Konstitutsioonierakond and Vasakpartei failed miserably.

Martin ütles ...

Ofcourse the American cousins of Isamaa are the Republicans
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Democrat_Union

Flasher T ütles ...

Martin - actually I'd say that the American cousins of both Isamaa and Reform are the moderate Republicans, or rather the pre-Bush Republican idea - low taxation, as little government regulation of the economy as you can get away with, etc. That hardly seems the purpose of the current Republican Party leadership.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, in Finland we really have a ridiculously wide consensus: the Left Alliance can be in the same coalition with Kokoomus. That of course means that the Left Alliance is not very seriously socialist and nor is Kokoomus full of free market fanatics. It makes politics kind of boring.

One thing to notice is that whatever the particular combination is in government in any Nordic country it will claim to defend the overwhelmingly popular welfare state. The question is only about means. I would think that Estonia for example is several degrees nearer to more market enthusiastic direction.

In one sense Finland is an odd man out: we don't seem to have a very dynamic nationalist-populist force at all. "True Finns" remain quite static at ca 3% - I would think that there would be much more potential support in the famous "beton" (concrete) suburbs that have still to recover fully from the early 90's depression.

Anonüümne ütles ...

There is no liberal party in Finland whereas it exists in Estonia. Keskusta is normally referred to liberals without being one. Well, RKP/FSP is liberal but quite minor.

interesting ütles ...

hello! offtopic, but.. has epp closed her blog for readers?

http://eppppp.tahvel.info/
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Mikko Sandt ütles ...

Just a thought: Do they use the term "right-wing" in Estonia when referring to the Reform party?

Newspapers in Finland do mention that Reform is a liberal party but also call it a right-wing party. But the party has been pushing for the kind of economic and social (abolishing conscription) reforms that make conservatives look like socialists/fascists.

Which of the popular parties are the most religious?

Andres ütles ...

Reform is the most right-wing party there is in Estonia imo. As for religious parties.. there aren't any to be honest. The Christian Democrats got 1,7% of votes and nobody identifies themselves as pro-church. Everybody attends obligatory masses at independence day etc, but nobody uses the Religious Card in Estonia.

Martin ütles ...

I find these current Christian Democrats odd, since Pro Patria was originally a union of 2 Christian Democrat parties (also the Conservative and Republican parties) back in 1992. Also Pro Patria is also a member of the European People's Party, which is the European wing of the Christian Democrat International.

Seems to me that this Christian Democrat party is only serving to split the conservative vote in Estonia

margus ütles ...

Radical parties like Iseseisvuspartei, Konstitutsioonierakond and Vasakpartei failed miserably.

Actually Vasakpartei and Russian Party in Estonia got less votes than they have party members. It's suggested that some of their party members are dead or 'dead'.

Andres,
I think the left-right criteria is obsolete in today's world. By this, liberals would be between socialists and conservatives and that is not so for Reform or any other liberal party. IRL is more likely 'right-wing' or conservative.

Janek,
Don't you think Kesk is more socialist than Sotsiaaldemokraadid? Not counting that Savisaar would sacrifice anything for power. I mean, Kesk promising huge civil servant wage growth and large progressive taxes, while social-dem's have ditched the progressive tax idea? If they haven't reconsidered.

Mikko Sandt ütles ...

andres:
"Reform is the most right-wing party there is in Estonia imo"

You should get familiar with the Nolan Chart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_chart).
The Reform Party seems to be closer to libertarianism/classical liberalism (simply liberalism in Europe) than conservatism.

Martin ütles ...

My take on Estonia's political parties, from left to right:
Rahvaliit - leftist
Keskerakond - lefist
Sotsiaaldemokraatlikerakond - centrist
Reformierakond - liberal
Isamaa ja Respublica Liit - conservative

Giustino ütles ...

hello! offtopic, but.. has epp closed her blog for readers?

http://eppppp.tahvel.info/
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Apache/2.2 Server at eppppp.tahvel.info Port 80


No, that's a server issue. Daki's blog, which is also a tahvel.info blog is also down.

Giustino ütles ...

I wonder, if or when Savisaar exits politics or this world, if Kesk will become less populist and more reliably center-left.

I read the arguments of younger members of Keskerakond, for example, some of whom are calling for Estonian withdrawal from Iraq, and I have to say I'd welcome that issue into the debate. Why not have a debate over military commitments? It seems natural.

But instead all I heard from Savisaar was that we'd all have a bigger salary if he won.

It's clear that there are different camps within that party.

plasma-jack ütles ...

if or when Savisaar exits politics or this world, if Kesk will become less populist and more reliably center-left.

The Kesk will be close to disintegrating after Savisaar's death (which is the only realistic option of him leaving politics). They would bw gnawing at eachothers' throats, but nobody would be a serious successor. And the voting base would be "lännu nagu mullune lumi" (gone like last year's snow). And that would be a real good news for SDE.

I read the arguments of younger members of Keskerakond, for example, some of whom are calling for Estonian withdrawal from Iraq, and I have to say I'd welcome that issue into the debate.

I agree with that one. But the debate should have been initiated BEFORE sending troops to Iraq. And before cheering Bush and Rumsfeld with other East-European poodles and UK. Unfortunately a large part of our elite loves US so much that they have real difficulties to believe that not everything with American stamp on it is necessarily good.

Withdrawing NOW would be even more shameful, but it seems to me that Americans are going to say some moment: "Hey, we destroyed your country, but now we feel kinda tired and are going home. You guys can clean this mess or flee to Europe. Have a nice day."

So I'm against withdrawal as strongly as I was against he war and against Bush and his most ferwent local claqueurs, Laar, Parts&Kallas. I was really pissed off at Mikser and Ilves too, but they're at least admitting now that maybe Bush really isn't the sharpest guy around.

Flasher T ütles ...

Why not have a debate over military commitments? It seems natural.

Nobody gives a flying pluck. Military commitments are fulfilled using professional contract soldiers, not conscripts. To the general population, it's a convenient way to spend a bit of money to ship all the violent assholes off to the desert where they can shoot Iraqis to their heart's content.

Giustino ütles ...

Withdrawing NOW would be even more shameful, but it seems to me that Americans are going to say some moment: "Hey, we destroyed your country, but now we feel kinda tired and are going home. You guys can clean this mess or flee to Europe. Have a nice day."

Americans are looking at the war and not seeing any results. They increasingly see themselves as caught between sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

And there is such a rigid ideology behind dealing with it. It's like we can't seem to get past this one vision of Iraq. Nobody takes a partitioning of Iraq seriously, but having three small states is preferable for most of the greater powers in the region, who prefer the methods of divide and conquer.

And partitioning is just one idea. There are many that can be put on the table. But there is no debate about other solutions. It's all "should we stay or should we go."

plasma-jack ütles ...

That's because there is no consensus on partitioning. Shias and Kurds might agree on that, if they can get Basra (probably with Baghdad) and Kirkuk, respectively. Then the Sunnis would both starve and be object of genocide (which doesn't mean they couldn't kill shitloads of random Shias in the process), which would make Saudi Arabia and Syria increasing their presence. Iran is already there anyway and couldn't leave even if it wanted to.
And the Turks would try another genocide on Kurds because they can't accept the idea of Kurdish independence (actually, local Christians, especially Armenians are even more afraid of Turks). And so on. The problem is that there are very many normal people around there who don't deserve that mess cooked by Bush and al-Qaeda.

Vilhelm Konnander ütles ...

Dear Giustino,

You seem to have stirred up quite a debate by this post. ;)

I must say that, except the similarities you exemplify with in your post, I have difficulties to put Estonian politics into a Nordic context.

Having myself once been into politics, and knowing quite a lot of politicians from the countries concerned, I still think the culture and workings of politics in Estonia is widely different to that of Nordic countries. That is not to say that I look down on Estonia in any way. I just fail to see the similarities.

Please, enlighten me!

Yours,

Vilhelm

Giustino ütles ...

Having myself once been into politics, and knowing quite a lot of politicians from the countries concerned, I still think the culture and workings of politics in Estonia is widely different to that of Nordic countries. That is not to say that I look down on Estonia in any way. I just fail to see the similarities.

Please, enlighten me!


Good morning Vilhelm,

Those are some fairly key campaign issues - economic reform, energy, security, nationalism.

I know that when I lived in Denmark the 'minority question' was burning on people's minds. People spoke in as hushed paranoid voices about integrating Muslim youth as some Estonians will talk about integrating Slavic youth here. It's not always as intense as it is in Denmark, but it's there.

There's obviously less 'wiggle room' in the Nordic economic debate - but a similar question lies at its root in both Estonia and also Finland or Denmark.

In Estonia there is a unspoken fear that a rejection of liberal economic policies will send investors fleeing, leaving the country vulnerable economically and politically. In a Nordic country the question is, how much of our state-sponosored life must we give up for economic growth?

Under it all, I believe that these "northern" countries crave order and stability and are by nature cautious with implementing major reforms. These questions - security, identity - disturbances here interupt efficiency and organization, which everybody values and desires.

That wasn't the case here in the '90s, but I could feel it in this election. People were scared by the idea of Savisaar winning, but I think they have a deep desire not to rock the boat.

Also, who else should we compare Estonia too? We can work with a shortlist of Latvia and Lithuania, but Lithuania is so drawn into Central European relations via Poland that it gets hard. So the obvious country to look for comparison is Finland, another republic bordering Russia with a similar history of foreign domination.

And now that Sweden and Estonia are closer because Bildt's in the foreign ministry, I think it makes sense to think about Sweden as well. Sweden obviously thinks of Estonia as a partner in the EU. Norway is a natural edition because it's also a NATO member and Russia's [more important] northern fleet must pass through its waters.

So these factors make me think that we should sometimes try to see Estonia's reaction within the context of its neighbors, which include the traditional Nordic countries.

We should think about how all of these countries are responding to growing Russian assertiveness. How are all these countries reacting to the German-Russian pipeline plan? I mean, why not? This is the blogopshere. We can do whatever we want. :)

Mange Takk,

Giustino