When a Right-Wing Populist Party Inherits a Mass Party Organisation: The Case of EKRE

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

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When a Right-Wing Populist Party Inherits a Mass Party Organisation: The Case of EKRE


  • Tõnis Saarts School of Governance, Law and Society, Tallinn University, Estonia
  • Mari-Liis Jakobson School of Governance, Law and Society, Tallinn University, Estonia
  • Leif Kalev School of Governance, Law and Society, Tallinn University, Estonia


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Abstract:  When the Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond (EKRE, Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took over the defunct but extensive party organisation of the Estonian People’s Union, it placed great emphasis on rebooting and extending the organisation and bringing in new activists. As a result, EKRE has grown into a full-fledged mass party type of organisation with all the characteristics associated to it. Furthermore, it has become the fastest-growing party in Estonia in terms of membership and been notably successful in electoral terms. This article focuses primarily on the question of how EKRE developed a mass party organisation with a strong, ideologically-devoted activist core and a remarkable presence on the ground. The article also demonstrates how the party offers a variety of opportunities for engagement to its members. In contrast to an archetypical right-wing populist party, the decision-making power is somewhat diffused within the party, though the party leader remains the public face and mouthpiece of the party. EKRE’s online engagement strategies have been among the most successful in recent Estonian politics and make the party stand out. The article demonstrates that parties can often revise as well as repurpose the features of the predecessor parties and even build defunct mainstream parties into mass parties with a firm ideological core.

Keywords:  EKRE; Estonia; party organisation; right-wing populism; successor parties

Published:   24 November 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i4.4566


© Tõnis Saarts, Mari-Liis Jakobson, Leif Kalev. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.