The Baltic Region

2020 Vol. 12 № 1

Estonia’s party system today: electoral turbulence and changes in ethno-regional patterns

Abstract

A well-developed party system has emerged in Estonia over the decades of independence. There are, however, distinct geographical patterns of voting. A number of new political parties have appeared in the country; the regional and ethnic patterns of voting (the latter matter much in Estonia) have changed dramatically. This study aims to analyse the recent changes in the Estonian party system as well as the causes of these changes and the effect of the ethnic and geographical factors on the transformation of the electoral behaviour of Estonian citizens. The research employs a systemic approach that makes it possible to solve the agent—structure problem to the benefit of the general structure and integral system of Estonia’s party scene. The method of comparative systemic analysis is used alongside those adopted in electoral geography. It is concluded that the effect of the ethnic and geographical factors on electoral behaviour is diminishing as a civil society based on civic rather than ethnic principles is emerging in the country. The main drivers of the change are the formation of new parties and coalition-building — both have an immediate effect on how the image of the parties is perceived by voters.

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Party system nationalization in Estonia

Abstract

This article explores the Estonian ‘integration’ project, which was launched in the early 1990s to bridge the differences between ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians by assimilating the latter with the former. Since the project will soon turn thirty, it is timely to ask whether it has been a success. This article employs Grigorii Golosov’s index of political party nationalization to understand whether the ‘integration’ project has helped to narrow the ideological divide between ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians. In other words, the study asks whether ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians vote for the same political parties in comparable proportions or there are ‘Estonian’ and ‘Russian’ parties in the country. The analysis of the outcomes of four local and four parliamentary elections that took place in Estonia in 2005—2019 shows that by the mid-2000s Estonia achieved a considerable level of political party system nationalization at both national and local levels. At the national level, political party system nationalization remained high in 2007—2019 despite significant changes in the country’s political party system. At the local level, however, political party system nationalization has been diminishing since 2013, leading one to conclude that the Estonian ‘integration’ project has failed to close the ideological divide between ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians.

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Local government reforms in Estonia: institutional context, intentions and outcomes

Abstract

The local government reforms of 1989 and 1993 were intended to establish a dual pattern of central-local relations in Estonia. The choice of this model was inspired and supported by the Nordic states. Although the legal framework for local government has remained untouched since 1993, the introduction of institutional mechanisms for strong local autonomy was not a success. The first part of this article seeks to identify the main factors that inhibited the launch of the new institutional model. These were a lack of strategic influence on national policy-making, poor cooperation from local authorities, and the diminishing role of county-level governments and their subsequent liquidation. The second part of the article analyses the objectives and results of the local government amalgamation reform of 2017 as well as the theoretical and practical possibilities to re-establish central-local balances in Estonia. The analysis draws on institutional theory, which explains the effect of deep value patterns and concrete political choices on the institutionalization logic followed after the 1993 reform. It is concluded that the local elites retaining their old value patterns will downplay the effect of the 2017 reform.

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Disinformation (fake news, propaganda) as a threat to resilience: approaches used in the EU and its member state Lithuania

Abstract

This study analyses EU and Lithuanian documents on countering disinformation/fake news to present the plurality of the Union’s approaches to ensuring resilience. Currently, there are three approaches to the problem in the EU. The first one, used by the European Commission, is the recognition of citizens’ right to information as well as of the need to promote critical thinking and information literacy. This approach fits into the adaptive paradigm of action in the information space and the concept of autopoietic resilience. The second approach, taken by the European External Action Service, is to expose fake news and the media spreading it. In combining adaptive and paternalistic paradigms of action in the information space, this approach employs a more static interpretation of resilience. Lithuania has adopted a third approach, which is dominated by the paternalistic paradigm and homeostatic resilience. This approach consists of the state isolating citizens from certain information. Thus, the popular use of the term ‘resilience’ in the EU disguises the plurality of approaches to both disinformation and resilience itself. Theoretically, this study draws on the concept of resilience and paradigms for countering disinformation/fake news. Methodologically, it relies on critical discourse analysis. The article suggests several possible causes of intra-EU differences in countering disinformation/fake news/propaganda and interpreting resilience

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The danish parliament as an actor of Denmark’s foreign policy towards the EU and Russia: a comparative analysis, 2005—2019

Abstract

The growing number of participants in foreign policy decision-making calls for a study of the forces affecting the behaviour of states in the international arena. In contemporary states, parliaments are increasingly challenging the exclusive prerogatives of executive power in foreign and defence policy. Many experts stress that the powers of the Danish Parliament in these fields are among the most considerable in the world. The question is, however, whether these powers are exercised in the same manner towards different states and regions. This article aims to find out how the Danish Parliament contributes to the country’s foreign policy towards the EU and Russia. The concentric circles model is employed to assess the level of the Danish Parliament’s participation in the foreign policy of the Kingdom of Denmark in different regions of the world. The study conducts a comparative analysis of the evidence of the Parliament’s influence on Denmark’s relations with the EU, the EFTA, and Russia. The findings lead one to conclude that the Danish Parliament’s participation in the country’s foreign policy towards EU bodies is highly institutionalised and coherent, which can be explained by close integration of Danish political elites into European ones as well as by European processes being clear and predictable for Danish parliamentarians. The participation of the Parliament in Danish—Russian relations is less systematic and structured since the Danish Parliament sometimes lacks diplomatic experience and resources to influence more complex and ambiguous relations with the Russian Federation.

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