This article approaches the electoral success of Estonia’s Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) from a critical political economy perspective. It explores immediate and longer-term factors conducive to the surge in the support of this far-right party. After situating the radical rightist reaction in Estonia within the wider continuum of far-right morphologies across Europe, the article attributes the immediate factors explaining EKRE’s ascendence to the conjuncture of the 2008 economic crisis and its resolution. It is contended that the authoritarian neoliberal (post-)crisis environments engendered a surveillance-based imposition of fiscal restraint at the European level and recalibrated the repertories of state interventionism at the national spatial scale. In Estonia, this served to (re-)produce the vocabularies of crisis in line with the far-right’s sensibilities and eroded the public’s trust in the parties of the political mainstream. The analysis of immediate factors behind the rise of the far-right is then supplemented with a forensic examination of popular disenfranchisement with the outcomes of post-communist transformation, the party’s ambiguous relationship with neoliberalism and EKRE’s class-constituted support base. As will be demonstrated, the far-right has attracted the votes of working-class segments residing in the peripheries of the country as well as poverty-stricken pensioners, youths and the disenchanted sections of the middle class. The article concludes by evaluating the claim that EKRE’s inclusion in the coalition government from April 2020 to January 2021 amounted to a break from neoliberalism.
Global Political Economy
Date of publication
July 13, 2022
The contents of this article were presented at the CPERN workshop in January 2023 (YouTube link).