>Estonia’s many shades of Green
My SSEES colleague Allan Sikk gives a seminar at the Sussex European Institute about Estonia’s Green Party, currently the strongest in Central and Eastern Europe having broken into the country’s parliament in the last elections with something over 7% of the vote. As elsewhere in the region, they have roots in the anti-communist dissident protest movements, which in the Estonian case means a certain (historically) nationalist tinge and a total lack of support from Russophone voters (perhaps, however a consequence of insufficient resources to mount a bilingual campaign Allan thought). In the Czech case, it means anti-communism and an inclination to work with the right, although recently the half a dozen Czech Green MPs have fallen out amongst themselves and some are looking to work with the Social Democrats. Quite how there can be ‘problems of communication with the leadership’ in a group of six, I’m not sure.
Despite some modest claims to have co-written the research paper the talk is based upon at short notice just before this year’s BASEES conference, it’s an impressive thorough and scrupulous presentation, which cleverly interweaves election survey, ecological analysis and more qualitative and historical insights to raise some bigger issues about the possible (re-)emergence of Green parties in the region. As quickly emerged – despite a propensity to attract better educated voters – there is no real evidence of Estonian Greens representing the first shoots of growth in post-materialist values based on a post-industrial economy despite high growth the emergence of a middle class of sorts. Instead of this sociological story – one that arguably even distorts our understanding of Green parties in the West – I (having spent too much time reading Charles Ragin on ‘configurational causation’) wondered if we had to look to a mix of factors coming together in certain cases: environmental and/or agrarian interest with the demand for ‘new politics’ of the centre, best delivered through a known and trusted political brand. In this perspective, the Green label is just a kind of franchise taken up by a rather diverse group of political business partners. Not necessarily totally meaningless, but not really indicative of a close ‘party family’ relationship.