Conservative People's Party of Estonia

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Conservative People's Party of Estonia
Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond
Chairman Mart Helme
Founded 24 March 2012
Preceded by People's Union of Estonia
Estonian Patriotic Movement[1]
Headquarters Toompuiestee 4, Tallinn
Newspaper Konservatiivide Vaba Sõna
Youth wing Blue Awakening
Membership  (2016) Increase 8,010[2]
Ideology Estonian nationalism[3]
National conservatism[4]
Ethnopluralism[5]
Euroscepticism[6]
Direct democracy[7]
Right-wing populism[8]
Political position Right-wing to Far-right[3][9][10]
Colours      Blue
Riigikogu
7 / 101
EU Parliament
0 / 6
Party flag
EKRE lipp.png
Website
www.ekre.ee

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond, EKRE) is a national conservative political party in Estonia. Its chairman since 2013 is Mart Helme, former Estonian ambassador to Russia.[11] The party's identitarian youth wing, Blue Awakening organizes frequent nationalist torchlight marches in Estonia. Ideologically, the party is a descendant of the Estonian ethno-nationalist camp, which dates back to the Singing Revolution. Some political commentators place the EKRE on the right to far right but party representatives reject this and suggest other ways of looking at the left–right axis.[3]

The party was founded in March 2012 when the agrarian centrist party People's Union of Estonia and the nationalist pressure group Estonian Patriotic Movement merged.[4] In the parliamentary election of 2015, it secured 8.1% of the votes and entered the Riigikogu with 7 seats. At the same time it had around 7600 members, being the fourth largest Estonian party by membership size.[2]

The party sees the survival of Estonian ethnicity as its main objective, and many of its policies are directed towards providing support to young Estonian families, lowering emigration of Estonians and preventing immigration from outside of the European Union.[6] It is also eurosceptic and wishes to implement Swiss-style direct democracy.[12]

History[edit]

The party is a descendant of the Estonian ethno-nationalist camp, which dates back to the Singing Revolution.[13] The Estonian Patriotic Movement was founded in 2006. From 2008, the movement was led by Martin Helme, son of Mart Helme. Mart Helme had formerly been a member of the People's Union of Estonia but was forced to leave the party in 2004 because of his opposition to the relocation of Monument of Lihula and the suppression of protests.[14]

The party was founded in March 2012 when the agrarian centrist party People's Union of Estonia and the nationalist pressure group Estonian Patriotic Movement merged.[4] In 2010, the People's Union of Estonia started to look for a possible merging partner. Talks with the Social Democratic Party were concluded and a special congress was convened to approve the merger agreement. However, at the party congress, only 172 delegates out of 412 supported the deal.[15] Following the failed merger attempt, many leading members (MPs) left the party and joined the Social Democrats.[16] In the 2011 parliamentary election, the People's Union did not pass the 5% threshold.

Mart Helme and several members of his nationalist circle run at the election as independent candidates, none of whom passed the threshold necessary for an independent to enter the parliament. After the election, the leader of the People's Union, Margo Miljand, met with Helme. To save the party, Helme advised him to change the party name and alter the program. With links to the nationalist Estonian Patriotic Movement, Helme advised a deal between the two. The movement promised it would help redo the party program and elect new leaders.[3]

In March 2012, the Estonian Patriotic Movement merged into the People's Union and the latter changed its name to the Conservative People's Party of Estonia.[17] At the assembly in Põltsamaa, where the party was founded, EKRE made its first political statement: "No political party in the Riigikogu represents the Estonian people, our national interest or traditional values. The government acts on right- and left liberal, also socialist ideas that our countrymen are simply statistical units or taxpayers, consumers at best. It is not far right or far left, just ultra-liberalism. The Conservative People's Party gives a solution to the voters who are sick of forced choice between Ansip and Savisaar, East and West, left and right."[18] For the first three months, EKRE’s support according to the polls was zero, than it begun to gradually rise.[3]

EKRE takes part of yearly gatherings of the veterans of the Estonian Legion at the Sinimäed Hills. In 2013, the attendance of Mart Helme was praised in Estonian media while the abstention of other parties' leaders was frown upon and seen as a result of Russian anti-fascist propaganda.[19]

During the local elections in October 2013, the party gained representation in several smaller municipalities, such as the parishes of Tudulinna[20] and Häädemeeste.[21] A member of the party also became mayor of the town of Saue,[22] however he was set up independently of EKRE in a local party’s list.

The first party since the 1990s to politically organize Estonian diaspora, EKRE founded its Finland branch in October 2014.[23]

In the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary election, EKRE managed to draw supporters from the mainstream right, including defectors mainly from the IRL, but also from the liberal Reform Party and the Free Party's initiative group.[24] In the election, EKRE won 8.1% of the vote and 7 seats in the Riigikogu.[25] Soon after, the winning Reform Party excluded EKRE from the coalition talks, citing as a reason a blog post by EKRE's MP Jaak Madison, written in January 2012. In the post, Madison commended the economic policies of the Nazi Party and wrote: "There is unfortunately no perfect form of government (not even democracy) but I see fascism as being an ideology that consists of many positive nuances necessary for preserving the nation-state."[26] Madison is now the vice chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee of the parliament.[27]

The former president of Estonia Arnold Rüütel voiced his support for Mart Helme in the Estonian presidential election, 2016.[28][29]

Ideology and political positions[edit]

EKRE describes itself as "a principled and bravely patriotic Estonian party with an unshakable mission to protect Estonian national values and interests".[1]

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party program states that it is founded on the continuity of the Republic of Estonia and its Constitution, and it unites people who fight for the nation state, social cohesion and democratic principles.[30]

The activities of the Conservative People’s Party are based on three fundamental values:

  • Endurance of the Estonian values, based on support for the language, culture, education, family, traditions and national economy
  • Participation society of equal opportunities, where open, honest and democratic governance allows all citizens to reach fulfilment and get involved in politics
  • Socially and regionally balanced development and wellbeing that are guaranteed by a fair and strong state by implementing caring and knowledge-based policies and by developing an ecologically sustainable living environment.[30]

It has also been labelled "far-right" by Kari Käsper, the Executive Director of Estonian Human Rights Centre,[31] and in foreign media by BBC News[32] and the Christian Science Monitor.[33] According to Fox News Channel, EKRE is a far-right party, "considered by some to have Fascist-Neo-Nazi sympathies similar to many other flourishing nationalist parties in the Baltics and Eastern Europe".[34] The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called EKRE youth organization's annual torchlight procession an "extreme right march".[35]

Martin Helme, board member and the party leader's son, has said that the accusations of extremism simply reflect the unfamiliarity and discomfort of the ruling class and media with the new political rhetoric of EKRE: "The mainstream has become so orthodox, so narrow, that whatever is not immaculately, diligently, fervently more-catholic-than-pope mainstream is immediately labelled extremism."[3]

The programme of EKRE states that the citizens must actively guard against the external as well as the internal enemy in order to secure the Estonian nation, the survival of its independence and its status as an ethno-state. It also states as its objectives the creation of the environment needed for the survival of the Estonian language and culture.[6] The party calls for implementation of direct democracy,[7] balanced state budget,[36] and strict control over immigration to Estonia.[36]

Social policies[edit]

Education and health care[edit]

The party strongly opposes the widespread closure of schools in countryside. Its program requires the teachers to speak high-level Estonian and be loyal to the Estonian state. To raise the quality of education, EKRE desires to raise the wages of teachers.[36]

According to the program of the party, the importance of health care is linked to the preservation of the Estonian nation. The party stands for free dental treatment,[37] wants to limit the availability of tobacco, alcohol and narcotics, and does not support abortion.[36]

Demography and immigration[edit]

According to EKRE, demography is one of the most crucial aspects in the survival of Estonian state. According to Mart Helme, Estonia is in a "demographic crisis", characterized by low birth rate and emigration of more than 100,000 Estonians in recent years.[38] To counter the falling birth rate, the party has proposed family welfare programs such as paying back a quarter of a married couple's mortgage loan with every child's birth and lowering a parent's income tax by 5% rate for every child being raised in the family.[37][39]

EKRE has actively stood against immigration from the Middle East and Africa, especially regarding the quota system proposed by EU Commission in 2015 to resettle the immigrants to all EU member states.[6] Citing a large number of Russians already imported during the Soviet occupation, the party has repeatedly ruled out supporting any further mass immigration into Estonia. The party upholds that the Estonian migration policies must advance the aim of "expanding the amount and percentage of Estonians in Estonia" and if the liberal government allows immigration to "alter the ethnic makeup of Estonia", it is "scandalous and undemocratic".[40]

Commenting riots in socially segregated suburbs in Sweden, Martin Helme, board member and the party leader's son said in a TV talk show in May 2013: "Estonia shouldn't allow things to go as far as in England, France and Sweden. Our immigration policy should have one simple rule: if you're black, go back. As simple as that. We shouldn't allow this problem to emerge in the first place."[41]

Same-sex unions[edit]

The party strictly opposed the civil partnership law on registered partnership for same-sex couples that was adopted by Riigikogu in October 2014. Pointing out that the law grants adoption rights to homosexual couples, the party claimed it essentially establishes same-sex marriage. Instead, the party proposes laws that would help to raise the birth rate and strengthen the societal attitudes towards having children, including the need to strengthen the traditional family model.[42]

EKRE also claims that pushing through the law while opinion polls showed that the majority of Estonian people opposed it, was undemocratic. The party platform proposes a referendum on the civil partnership law.[37]

Direct democracy[edit]

EKRE views Estonia's form of government as heavily biased towards representative democracy, without means for the people to have an influence on politics other than elections. To change that, the party wants to return to more traditional ways of direct democracy, such as provided by the earlier Estonian constitutions of 1920 and 1934.[43]

The party program includes support of the right of citizens to create initiatives if at least 25,000 registered voters sign a petition to put a bill on referendum. EKRE supports public presidential elections, recall elections and public elections of judges, prosecutors and local police prefects. The party wants to abolish D'Hondt method from the parliamentary elections.[43]

Economic policies[edit]

The party program states that the development of the market must serve the national interest.[36] The party calls for creation of a national public bank.[44] It has also supported cooperative banking in Tartu, including in its program the establishment of an alternative interest-free currency.[45]

EKRE has voiced criticism over the exexution of the Rail Baltica project. According to the party, Rail Baltica could potentially bring great benefit to the economy of Estonia, but the current project has a questionable impact on the environment and local communities, as well as a doubtful economic viability.[46] In 2016, both Mart Helme and Henn Põlluaas proposed that the current project should be replaced with a vactrain or Hyperloop connecting Estonia to Central Europe.[47][48]

Environment[edit]

According to EKRE, the "untouched natural beauty" of Estonia must be preserved more effectively. Therefore, the party supports alternative and environment-friendly sources of energy. EKRE wants to intensify the fight against littering and says the offenders must be punished at least with a sum necessary to compensate for the harm created to nature.[36] The party's program includes a ban on all genetically modified foods and their import.[36]

Foreign and defence policies[edit]

Dark green territory is, according to EKRE, illegally occupied by Russia

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia often calls to protect Estonia's independence and sovereignty from supranational unions. They claim that the European Union is moving towards a federal state and Estonia should veto any legislation that centralises more power to the hands of EU.[49] On 30 August 2012, EKRE organised a protest at Toompea against the ratification of European Stability Mechanism treaty.[50]

While the party does not advocate Estonia's exit from the EU, it believes that the union has to overgo a drastic change. According to EKRE, the EU has to become a military alliance that would defend all European ethnicities based on the concept of ethnopluralism. EKRE wants to strongly limit the amount of bureaucracy in the EU.[51]

EKRE strongly opposes a proposed border treaty between Estonia and Russia, which, according to the party, would cede 5.2% of Estonia's territory to the occupier once and for all without any compromise or compensation on its side. The party has called the possible signing of the treaty "treason" and the Estonian politicians who would sign it "traitors to the state".[52]

The party opposes the accession of Turkey to the European Union and has called for reconsidering Turkey's membership in NATO. After the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, EKRE expressed regret over its defeat and called Turkey "no more democratic country than Russia".[53][54]

The EKRE proposes a national defence policy based on self-reliance of Estonia. The security of the country would be safeguarded by the existence of initial defence, compulsory military service, total defence, international cooperation and the membership of NATO.[36] The platform of the party includes formation of two tank battalions and acquisition of medium-range anti-aircraft systems.[37]

Martin Helme has expressed sympathy for American presidential candidate Donald Trump and his alt-right supporters. According to Helme, Trump is right to point out that the Baltic countries need to make a financial contribution in exchange for the military alliance with the United States. "He can see no reason why the United States should make the national defense of other countries its duty. And I believe this question is completely justified. It's namely our party that has been saying for a long time that making initial independent defense capability strong is the most important thing, allies being the next component," said Helme.[55][56]

International relations[edit]

EKRE has close links with similar right-wing nationalist parties in Latvia and Lithuania. On 23 August 2013, EKRE signed the Declaration of Bauska together with political parties National Alliance and Lithuanian Nationalist Union. The declaration calls for a new national awakening of the Baltic states and warns about threats posed by international globalism, multiculturalism and Russian imperial ambitions.[57][58]

In 2014, the party's congress in Tallinn was visited by a delegation from the UK Independence Party. The delegation was led by Roger Helmer who gave a speech in support of Euroscepticism in Estonia.[59]

Organizations with whom EKRE cooperates take regularly part of the annual torchlight march in Tallinn. They include all signatories of the Declaration of Bauska and the Scandinavian nationalist youth movement Nordisk Ungdom.[60]

The party has also contacts among Ukrainian nationalists. During Euromaidan, Mart Helme sent an address to the protestors in Kiev, urging the Ukrainian patriots not to succumb to Russian demands.[61]

Blue Awakening[edit]

The party's affiliated nationalist youth movement is named Blue Awakening. With links to the pan-European Identitarian movement and the alt-right in North America, Blue Awakening states "a new national awakening of the Estonians" as its principal aim.[62] This would come as a continuation to the 19th century Estonian national awakening and the Singing Revolution, leading the way to the establishment of "an eternal Estonian ethno-state".[63]

Blue Awakening was founded on 30 November 2012.[63] The young activists have been behind many of the party's protest marches. In addition to politics, the youth of Blue Awakening focus on art, music and right-wing philosophy such as the Traditionalist School of Julius Evola and René Guénon.[64] The movement is disciplined and its activists have formed several squads.[65] Their activities include rituals shaped after Finno-Ugric shamanism,[63] including celebrations of sunrise on ancient tumuli.[66]

Blue Awakening is the main organizer of the annual torchlight march through Tallinn on February 24, Independence Day of Estonia. The first Independence Day torchlight march was held in 2014. According to Blue Awakening, the torchlight march is meant to honor those who have fallen for the nation of Estonia and to signify that Estonian youth have not abandoned the nationalist principles.[67][68][69][70][71]

Torchlight marches of the Blue Awakening on the Independence Day of Estonia
2014
2014
 
2015
2015
 
2016
2016
 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b EKRE: Erakond (Estonian)
  2. ^ a b "Äriregistri teabesüsteem" (in Estonian). Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f EKRE – from club status to parliament rank
  4. ^ a b c "The 2015 parliamentary elections in Estonia. Rewarding the squirrels". Baltic Worlds. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Auers, Daunis; Kasekamp, Andres (2013). "Comparing Radical-Right Populism in Estonia and Latvia". In Wodak, Ruth; KhosraviNik, Majid; Mral, Brigitte. Right-Wing Populism in Europe: Politics and Discourse. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 235–248. ISBN 1-78093-343-6. 
  6. ^ a b c d Tiido, Anna (2015). "The Russian minority issue in Estonia: host state policies and the attitudes of the population" (PDF). Polish Journal of Political Science (4). Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Martin Helme: demokraatia on Euroopas löögi all, Eesti lohiseb kaasa". Objektiiv (in Estonian). 1 March 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016. Helme sõnul toetab EKRE otsedemokraatia kõiki meetodeid, mitte ainult rahvaalgatust, mis on selle võti. 
  8. ^ "Contentious politics in the Baltics: the 'new' wave of right-wing populism in Estonia". openDemocracy. 28 April 2016. 
  9. ^ A wave of right-wing populism has swept across Europe
  10. ^ http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/45635/ssoar-proceedingseass-2015-liivik-Right-wing_extremism_and_its_possible.pdf?sequence=1 Right-wing extremism and its possible impact to the internal security of the Republic of Estonia]
  11. ^ "EKRE general assembly elects Mart Helme chairman". Postimees. 
  12. ^ Tom Lansford (2017) Political Handbook of the World 2016–2017, CQ Press
  13. ^ "Kansallinen herättäjä – haastattelussa Ruuben Kaalep". Sarastus (in Finnish). 2 May 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  14. ^ Delfi: Rahvaliit viskas Mart Helme välja (Estonian)
  15. ^ "People's Union rebuffs Soc Dem merger". Baltic Reports. 
  16. ^ "People's Union board resigns, joins Soc Dems". Baltic Reports. 
  17. ^ "People's Union Becomes 'Conservative People's Party'". ERR. 
  18. ^ Delfi: Uue nime saanud Rahvaliit: parlamendierakonnad tegelevad manduva ja kõlbeliselt hukutava euroliidu väärtuste propageerimisega (Estonian)
  19. ^ Õhtuleht: Sinimäed kui poliitikute konnasilm (Estonian)
  20. ^ Põhjarannik: Tudulinnas tegi ilma EKRE (Estonian)
  21. ^ Vallavanemaks valiti Ants Järvesaar (Estonian)
  22. ^ ERR: Saue linnapeana jätkab Henn Põlluaas (Estonian)
  23. ^ Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond asutas Soome osakonna (Estonian)
  24. ^ Delfi: EKRE nimekirjas kandideerivad Reformierakonna rahastamisskandaali tegelane ja sõpradega tülli läinud kodanikuaktivist (Estonian)
  25. ^ Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon (Estonian)
  26. ^ ERR: EKRE could join Center as second 'pariah' after party defends new MP's controversial 2012 blog post
  27. ^ "European Union Affairs Committee". Riigikogu. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  28. ^ http://www.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/eesti/arnold-ruutel-toetab-presidendiks-mart-helmet?id=75702647
  29. ^ http://www.ohtuleht.ee/760858/arnold-ruutel-peab-parimaks-presidendikandidaadiks-mart-helmet
  30. ^ a b "Parliament of Estonia, Conservative People's Party of Estonia". Riigikogu. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  31. ^ Kari's journal: The danger posed by the far right in the Estonian Parliament
  32. ^ BBC News - Black Briton aims to be Estonian MEP
  33. ^ A first for Estonia: an elected black politician
  34. ^ Fox News: Jews in Baltics fear creep of anti-Semitism
  35. ^ Wiesenthal Center Criticizes Extreme Right March to Mark Estonian Independence Day
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h EKRE programm (Estonian)
  37. ^ a b c d Riigikogu valimiste platvorm 2015. On aeg! (Estonian)
  38. ^ Helme, Mart (April 13, 2013). Meie olemegi uus jõud! (Speech). EKRE Congress (in Estonian). Tallinn. Retrieved April 4, 2015. Neist haigustest kõige fataalsema lõpuga ähvardav on kahtlemata meie demograafiline kriis. Kui võtta lähtepunktiks Laulva revolutsiooni periood, mil Eestis sündis aastas 25 000 last, siis on meil 90. aastate algul järsult langenud sündivuse tulemusena järgneva kahekümne aasta vältel sündimata jäänud umbes 200 000 last – seda on kahe Tartu linna jagu. Kui lisada siia 100 000 piiri ületanud massiline riigist lahkumine, saamegi kokku hirmuäratava rahvastikukao, mis on kõrvutatav koguni stalinlike repressioonide läbi kantud inimkaotustega. 
  39. ^ Ruuben Kaalep: Konservatiivide lahendus iibeprobleemile (Estonian)
  40. ^ Volikogu avaldus: Valitsuse plaanitud massiimmigratsioon Eestisse ohustab meie rahvuslikku püsimist (Estonian)
  41. ^ Conservative Politician: If You're Black, Go Back
  42. ^ EKRE: kooseluseadus on vastuolus eesti rahva huvidega (Estonian)
  43. ^ a b Aeg on küps otsedemokraatiaks (Estonian)
  44. ^ E24: Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond nõuab riiklikku kommertspanka (Estonian)
  45. ^ Platvorm Tartu valitsemiseks 2013–2017 (Estonian)
  46. ^ EKRE: Rail Baltica peab teenima eesti rahva huve (Estonian)
  47. ^ Henn Põlluaas: Rail Baltic kui 19. sajandi relikt (Estonian)
  48. ^ Kolmeraudne: Mart Helme (October 13, 2016) (Estonian)
  49. ^ Eesti peab panema veto Euroopa Ühendriikidele (Estonian)
  50. ^ Delfi: ESM-i vastane meeleavaldus (Estonian)
  51. ^ EKRE eurovalimiste platvorm
  52. ^ Postimees: Estonia's Conservative People's Party criticizes border treaty with Russia
  53. ^ Helme: Türgis toimuv meenutab natsiaega (Estonian)
  54. ^ Sinine Äratus: Erdoğani toetamiseks puudub igasugune põhjus (Estonian)
  55. ^ Helme: Trump said aloud what everyone else in NATO thinks
  56. ^ Helme: ma võin kindel olla, et Trump on tegude mees (Estonian)
  57. ^ Nacionālā apvienība: Baltijas nacionālisti paraksta sadarbības līgumu, vēršoties pret globālajiem apdraudējumiem (Latvian)
  58. ^ Baltimaade konservatiivid: aeg on küps uueks rahvuslikuks ärkamiseks (Estonian)
  59. ^ Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond peab pühapäeval Tallinnas kongressi (Estonian)
  60. ^ FOTO: EKRE tõrvikumarsil osales ka avalikult natsismiga seostatud Rootsi noorteorganisatsioon (Estonian)
  61. ^ "Национал-радикал Домбрава отправился на киевский "Евромайдан" (Латвия)". ИА REGNUM. Retrieved 23 October 2014.  (Russian)
  62. ^ Telegram: Sinine Äratus tahab Eestit uueks rahvuslikuks ärkamiseks ette valmistada (Estonian)
  63. ^ a b c Uued Uudised: Sinine Äratus tähistas liikumise sünnipäeva, December 1, 2015 (Estonian)
  64. ^ Eesti Ekspress. "Sinised Äratajad". (Estonian)
  65. ^ Postimees: EKRE noorteorganisatsioon moodustas kolm eriülesannetega salka (Estonian)
  66. ^ Delfi: Sinine Äratus valis uue juhi (Estonian)
  67. ^ EKRE: Muljeid tõrvikurongkäigust (Estonian)
  68. ^ http://www.pealinn.ee/koik-uudised/fotod-vabariigi-aastapaeva-tahistati-vaatemangulise-n163616
  69. ^ http://www.eesti.ca/eesti-vabariigi-aastapaeva-tahistamine-tallinnas/article41545
  70. ^ http://www.w3.ee/openarticle.php?id=2342084&lang=est
  71. ^ http://uueduudised.ee/tv3-video-mida-arvasid-torvikurongkaigust-sellel-osalenud-inimesed/

External links[edit]