HomeWorldEuropeEstonian Prime Minister's Reform Party Wins Big In Parliamentary Election

Estonian Prime Minister’s Reform Party Wins Big In Parliamentary Election

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Estonians elected a new parliament on Sunday, with preliminary results indicating that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s center-right Reform Party, one of Europe’s most vocal backers of Ukraine, had won convincingly with nearly all ballots counted.

Kallas was challenged by the far-right populist EKRE party, which wants to minimise Estonia’s exposure to the Ukraine crisis and blames the current government for the country’s high inflation rate.

In total, nine political parties ran candidates for Estonia’s 101-seat parliament, or Riigikogu. Around 900,000 people were eligible to vote in the general election, with over half of them voting ahead of time.

With 99 percent of ballots counted, the Reform Party got 31.4 percent of the vote, followed by EKRE (16.1%) and the Center Party (15%), which has traditionally been backed by Estonia’s significant ethnic-Russian minority.

“This outcome, which is not yet final, will provide us with a solid mandate to put together a good government,” Kallas told her party colleagues and happy supporters at a hotel in Tallinn.

“I believe that with such a strong mandate, (assistance to Ukraine) will not alter because other parties, with the exception of the EKRE and possibly the Center, have adopted the same line,” she said.

According to preliminary results, six parties cleared the 5% barrier required for parliamentary representation, including newcomer Eesti 200, a liberal centrist party. According to preliminary data, the voter turnout was 63.7 percent.

According to the preliminary results, the Reform Party is in a remarkably strong position to play a prominent role in building Estonia’s future government, with 37 seats in the assembly. But, it will require junior partners to create a coalition with a comfortable majority in order to govern.

Due to ideological disagreements, Kallas has ruled out forming a government with EKRE and is expected to seek a deal with previous coalition member the Center Party and outgoing coalition partners — the small conservative Fatherland party and the Social Democrats.

The government talks with Reform are expected to include the newcomer Eesti 200.

National security in the aftermath of neighbouring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as socioeconomic difficulties, particularly growing living costs, were major campaign themes.

Kallas, 45, took office in 2021 and has emerged as one of Europe’s most vocal advocates of Ukraine during the year-long conflict. She is running for re-election, bolstered by her worldwide calls for sanctions against Russia.

Estonia, a Baltic republic of 1.3 million inhabitants bordering Russia to the east, broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since pursued a decidedly Western path, joining NATO and the European Union.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks as she reacts to election results in Tallinn, Estonia March 6, 2023. (Image by: REUTERS / Janis Laizans)

Kallas’ center-right Reform Party, a significant actor in Estonian politics since the mid-1990s, held the prime ministership continuously from 2005 to 2016 and will reclaim it in 2021.

The prime minister’s primary rival, EKRE party leader Martin Helme, blamed Kallas for the country’s 18.6 percent inflation rate, one of the highest in the EU, and accused her of undermining Estonia’s defences by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

“We’ve never questioned our commitment to Ukraine. “We’ve never questioned Estonia’s membership in NATO,” Helme told The Associated Press. “That’s just nonsense. Yet, we have been harshly critical of the administration for failing to appraise the risk to Estonia and to Estonian security and defence.”

“We have practically handed away all our heavy armament to Ukraine, and the replacement arrives within two to three years. “Essentially, that is an invitation to attack,” he explained.

The outspoken and contentious EKRE entered the mainstream of Estonian politics in the 2019 election, finishing third with nearly 18 percent of the vote. Martin Helme’s father, Mart Helme, co-founded the euroskeptic party, which served in a Center Party-led government from 2019 to 21.

Kallas claims that assisting Kyiv is in her country’s best interests. Tallinn was concerned that a Russian triumph would embolden Moscow to turn its attention to other countries it ruled during the Soviet era, notably Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

She claims that Estonia’s defences are still formidable because the US and other NATO partners have delivered top-tier weapons such as the HIMARS rocket system to both Ukraine and Estonia.

This report was provided to by Kostya Manenkov in Tallinn, Estonia.

Info source – PBS

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