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Estonia government fails no confidence vote

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas has lost a vote of no confidence. It opens the way for a party supported by the Baltic state's Russian minority to lead the next government.

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas (pictured) on Wednesday lost a no-confidence vote after two junior coalition partners abandoned him amid questions over his leadership.

A majority of 63 lawmakers in the 101-seat parliament voted to dismiss Roivas, whose centrist Reform party has 30 seats.

On Monday, the leaders of the five other parties in parliament, including the center-left Social Democrats SDE and conservative-nationalist Pro-Patria and Res Publica Union coalition partners, issued an ultimatum for Roivas to step down or be voted out.

In office since 2014, Roivas has been under fire over administrative reforms, economic and social policy, and the appointment of party members to state-owned companies. The current government was formed in April 2015.

Political maneuvers

Responding to the vote, Roivas told reporters his coalition partners had been maneuvering behind his back.

"They have been negotiating to form a different kind of coalition with different kinds of ideas," he said.

Local media reported that the Social Democrats have begun exploratory talks with the Center Party, the second largest party in parliament.  It is popular among Estonia's Russian minority who make up about a quarter of the country's 1.3 population.

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Most political parties had previously said they would not work with the Center Party, but in a leadership shakeup over the weekend the openly pro-Russia party leader Edgar Savisaar was replaced by the more moderate deputy speaker of parliament Juri Ratas.

The Social Democrats have hinted that Ratas, a critic of Russian foreign policy, could end up being the next prime minister.

The political crisis is largely domestic in origin and does not reflect any major foreign policy shifts.

All political parties have renewed their commitment to the Estonia's European Union and NATO membership at a time of rising concern over Russian actions in the Baltics.

NATO plans to rotate troops into members Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland to reassure and deter against a potential repeat of Moscow's intervention in Ukraine and support for Russian ethnic minorities.     

cw/jm (AFP, Reuters)

 

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