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Meteoric trajectory: The Res Publica party in Estonia

Abstract

Formed in 2001, Res Publica won the Estonian parliamentary elections in 2003, and its leader became prime minister. It failed to win a single seat in the European Parliament in 2004 and was down to 5 per cent in opinion polls in 2005 when it dropped out of the cabinet. The founding chairperson of the party analyses here the causes for Res Publica's rapid rise and fall, reviewing the socio-political background and drawing comparisons with other new parties in Europe. Res Publica was a genuinely new party that involved no previous major players. It might be characterized as a 'purifying bridge party' that filled an empty niche at centre right. Its rise was among the fastest in Europe. For success of a new party, each of three factors must be present to an appreciable degree: Prospect of success = Members times; Money × Visibility. Res Publica had all three, but rapid success spoiled the party leadership. Their governing style became arrogant and they veered to the right, alienating their centrist core constituency. It no longer mattered for the quality of Estonian politics whether Res Publica faded or survived. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.

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