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Polls show ruling parties set for re-election in Estonian vote

The center-right ruling coalition has a good chance of securing re-election on Sunday, although it may struggle to secure an outright majority. Estonia joined the eurozone in January, and boasts the EU's lowest deficit.

A view of Tallinn, the Estonian capital

Voters in Tallinn and Estonia are unlikely to cry for change

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and his Reform Party look set for re-election on Sunday, March 6, as the fiscally conservative group promise to make the small country one of the EU's five wealthiest members.

An opinion poll on Thursday suggested the Reform Party and its coalition partner Pro Patria and Res Republica Union would win a combined 54 percent of the vote. In that scenario, the group would secure a majority in the 101-seat parliament.

Earlier polls, however, suggested that the margin of victory might not be so comfortable, and if the ruling parties were to fall short of a majority, they might be forced to seek a broader alliance with the center-left Social Democrats.

Ansip's ruling coalition, in power in one form or another since 2005, has kept the country's finances on a tight leash. Estonia has the smallest deficit of any EU member, and its healthy finances helped it adopt the single European currency, the euro, in January.

"As indicated by several opinion polls, our base-line scenario is for a similar coalition to the existing one, so we are not expecting any significant changes to political or economic policy," emerging market analyst for the Nordea Bank, Annika Lindblad said.

Opposition weakened by scandal

People pass by a poster saying Euro is our money in Tallinn, Estonia

Adopting the euro has been quite a boon for the government

Perhaps Ansip's biggest strength ahead of the vote is the compromised situation his main opposition is facing.

The mayor of the capital Tallinn, Edgar Savisaar, and his Center Party traditionally enjoy support from pensioners, ethnic Russians (roughly a quarter of the population of 1.3 million) and others who oppose Ansip's Reform Party and its right-wing coalition allies.

Savisaar, however, has come under fire in the election run-up, accused of funding his party with Russian money. In response to the allegations, leveled by a counterintelligence agency in Estonia, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said he would never consider allowing the Center Party into government unless it "denounced and banned" such practices.

The Social Democrats, who entered government in coalition with Ansip in 2007, but later broke away, look set to gain as a result. Party leader Sven Mikser, 37, would be the likely ally for Ansip if his coalition falls short of an outright majority.

Absolute majority?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip stand on a balcony of Stenbock House in Tallinn

Ansip and Merkel have a broadly similar political stance

However, if Sunday's vote goes well for Ansip, his Reform Party might win an unprecedented outright majority of Estonian seats, even without its existing right-wing ally.

"As a relatively young democracy, we have reason to fear that unshared power corrupts people and corrupts the party," Liia Hanni of the Estonian e-Governance Academy said.

Ansip has presided over boom, bust and recovery in his time in office. He took power at the height of Estonia's economic surge, but after the recession hit, GDP nosedived by 14 percent in 2009. The ruling coalition implemented tough spending cuts to control the slide, and the country's economy has since stabilized, allowing it to join the eurozone this year.

Adopting the European single currency was a source of pride for much of the population, and Ansip has campaigned on a promise of more of the same, with a slogan that roughly translates as "something to rely on."

Turnout is expected to be around 60 percent, polls are open for most of the day on Sunday, and preliminary results are expected around midnight local time.

Author: Mark Hallam (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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