Most opinion polls, the results of which were published this week, suggest that the center-right Reform Party, led by Prime Minister Kaya Callas, will win these elections. But he will likely need to put together a coalition to stay in power.
Estonians voted Sunday to choose members of their new parliament in an election that could strengthen the far-right nationalists, whose party has focused its campaign on opposing more arms shipments to Ukraine.
Polling stations closed at 20:00 (18:00 GMT) and results are expected around midnight. The participation rate was 63.7%, according to the Electoral Commission.
Most opinion polls, the results of which were published this week, suggest that the “Reform Party” (center-right), led by Prime Minister Kaya Kallas, will win these elections. But he will likely need to put together a coalition to stay in power.
According to the results of these polls, the “Reform Party” will receive between 24 and 30% of the vote, compared to between 14 and 25% for the far-right in the “Conservative People’s Party of Estonia.”
The far-right party won 17.8% of the vote in the 2019 elections.
Also, according to the polls, the centrist party will get between 16 and 19 percent of the vote, the “Estonia 200” (liberal) party between 9 and 15 percent, and the “Social Democrats” party between 8 and 11.5 percent. As for the “Watan Party” (centre-right), it will get between 7 and 9 percent of the vote.
For his part, former Prime Minister and member of the “Reform Party” Sim Kallas warned of a split vote.
“The more confused and divided the result is, the more confused the government is, the weaker the ruling coalition becomes,” he wrote on Facebook.
Estonia, which borders Russia and has a population of 1.3 million, has a unicameral parliament with 101 seats that were contested in Sunday’s elections.
Estonia, located in the Baltic region and a member of the European Union and NATO, was at the head of countries that launched international calls last year to increase military aid to Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.
Estonian military aid to Ukraine currently accounts for more than 1% of its gross domestic product, the largest contribution of any country compared to the size of its economy.
– Tensions rising –
“It is clear that what is happening in Ukraine is very important for Estonia as well,” engineer Johan Resar, 35, told AFP from a polling station in the capital, Tallinn.
“Perhaps … people have forgotten the importance of independence,” he added.
“We seek an open, friendly, Western-style and intelligent European country,” the prime minister said in an interview with AFP last week.
She added, “My biggest opponent believes that we should not help Ukraine, that we should not support Ukraine, and that we should pursue only our own self-interest.”
But the leader of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, Martin Helme, believes that his country should “avoid increasing tension” with Moscow.
The party focused its campaign on opposing additional military aid to Ukraine and calling for no more Ukrainian refugees to be taken in.
The elections are taking place against the background of a difficult economic situation also in Estonia, which recorded one of the highest inflation rates among the European Union countries, reaching 18.6% on an annual basis last January.
For the retired Piotr Mahonin (62 years old), “the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia … alone represents the Estonian people.”
He accused the prime minister of caring more about “another country”, referring to Ukraine.
Like many Estonians, Mahonen said he fears war. “We have a big neighbor, Russia, and it is very dangerous,” he added, adding, “If war breaks out, we are a country on the front line.”
– resentment –
The Center Party, which is traditionally popular with Estonia’s large Russian-speaking minority, has supported the government’s policy toward Ukraine and Russia.
This raised the discontent of a number of Russian-speaking voters, while this minority constitutes a quarter of Estonia’s population.
The liberal Islah Party is popular with young entrepreneurs and workers.
He has promised to increase military spending to at least 3% of GDP, cut corporate taxes, and wants to pass a law that would approve civil partnerships between people of the same sex.
Analysts believe that an alliance between the “Reform Party”, “Estonia 200” and the “Social Democrats” is possible, as is the case between the “Reform Parties”, “The Center” and “The Homeland”.
The chances of the far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia leading a governing coalition are slim.