• Europe’s next far-right prime minister?

    Martin Helme was all smiles during Sunday’s protest. His party’s approval rating is breaking records with no ceiling in sight. Photo: Rauno Volmar, Delfi Meedia.

    On Sunday, many Estonians gathered on Tallinn’s Freedom square to join the right-wing populist EKRE party in a protest against high energy costs. The event was attended by many who were in genuine distress.

    At 25%, Estonia has the highest inflation in the EU. A great deal of that comes from the electricity bills that keep growing at a seemingly endless rate. The same is happening to the popularity of EKRE and it’s not even winter yet.

    The media is ablaze with ads featuring party leader Martin Helme’s promises of electricity at a fraction of the current cost. On March 5, with the suffering likely at its peak, Estonians will vote in a general election.

    Many believe that what’s happening is the result of Putin’s attack on Ukraine. This is what Estonia’s liberal prime minister, Kaja Kallas, keeps pointing out. She has been popular, but is now on the defensive and might soon lose her lead to Helme, who says that Kallas and Ursula von der Leyen, not Putin, are responsible for rising prices.

    Speaking to European Focus, Kaja Kallas said that Estonia, bordering Russia, would be politically lonely in the West were it to be led by the far right. “With a neighbour this aggressive, we would be extremely vulnerable.”

    Her party can’t blame all of what is happening in the polls on deceitful and manipulative messages from Helme and his allies. The Reform Party has been in government for all but five years since 1999.

    Many experts have complained that Estonia has had an aimless energy policy throughout this time. The result is a poor energy mix with too few renewables and too much dependence on other countries.

    The consequence may be Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gaining one more ally at Europe’s decision-making table.

    This article is part of the "How the energy crisis fuels the far right" edition
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