Political consequences of the 2019 Estonian parliamentary election

General elections in Estonia are scheduled for March 3 next year. Just like in a number of other European states, the country is seeing a rise in right-wing support, especially towards the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE). The party actively opposes liberal policies and European integration, as well as recent advances in same-sex unions’ rights in Estonia. EKRE is also known for using radical rhetoric, and has a history of being involved in public confrontations. Nevertheless, the party has achieved the status of third-largest political party according to recent polls. Will EKRE be able to negotiate a place within the new governing coalition in 2019?

The two parties with highest electoral support are the Estonian Reform Party (Ref) and the Estonian Centre Party (KESK). Each of these parties has been leading a government coalition at some point in the previous electoral cycle. The Reform Party formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and the Pro Patria (I) in April of 2015 after the previous General elections. When Taavi Rõivas, the Prime Minister from the Reform Party, didn’t obtain enough support in confidence vote of November of 2016, a new coalition was formed, in which the Centre party took instead the leading role alongside SDE and I. In the new coalition, both SDE and I received 5 ministry posts – one more than in the coalition with the Reform Party.

To forecast the structure of the governing coalition that will emerge after the General Elections in Estonia in March of 2019 we take into account the constraints to which political parties commit in terms of coalition formation. In case of Estonia, only one party – EKRE – has publicly made such a commitment. According to its leader, Mr. Helme, EKRE has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with SDE, stating that the basic values of the two parties are highly incompatible.

Based on current polls, and the information on the coalition formation process that is so far available, we formulate the following forecast on the composition and power distribution of each minimal winning coalition. (Methodology: stability analysis of coalition structures w.r.t. the conditional Shapley value)

We see several options open at this point in time. The most stable and, thus, likely outcome would be a right-wing government including the Reform Party, EKRE and E200, the newly formed political movement adhering to syncretic views, as well as promoting innovation and long-term development of the country. This coalition would be led by the Reform Party, which we expect to obtain the Prime Minister post and 5 ministries, while EKRE and E200 would get, respectively, 4 and 5 ministerial seats.

Another likely outcome could be a left-wing government led by the Centre Party and including E200 (with 3 ministries) and SDE, with SDE providing external support, or E200 (3 ministries) and I (1 ministry).

Other options seem to be less likely. Taking into account the rival ambitions of the Reform and Centre parties in wanting to lead the next government, we do not expect a coalition that includes both. A two-party coalition dominated by KESK – with EKRE receiving about 2 ministries – also appears unlikely, as EKRE would probably not want to join it in such a minor role.

We will update our forecast once further information is available. Keep track and share your opinion with us!

Update (05.02.2019):

In light of the recent changes in commitments of political parties, as well as polls results, we would like to update our forecast. Since the Reform party and E200 have excluded EKRE as a possible coalition partner, the coalition of Reform, EKRE and E200 is no longer possible. Using the recent polls results we obtain the following new forecast:

Currently, there are 2 most important and equally likely scenarios for a future government in Estonia. In the first case, the Reform party forms a coalition with SDE, I and E200. Reform will secure 6 ministry posts, apart from the prime minister. Other parties will receive 2, 4 and 2 posts respectively. In the second case, the new government will be led by KESK, which would also obtain 10 minister seats, while I would receive 4 minister posts. To make this coalition feasible, external support of EKRE is required.

A less likely, but possible scenario, puts the Reform party and KESK into one coalition.