Estonia′s opposition Reform Party wins general election | News | DW | 03.03.2019
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Estonia's opposition Reform Party wins general election

The center-right party's leader Kaja Kallas has ruled out a coalition with the far-right EKRE, who came third in Sunday's election. Kallas is now on track to become Estonia's first female prime minister.

Estonia's opposition Reform Party won the country's parliamentary election on Sunday, pulling off a surprising upset over center-left Prime Minister Juri Ratas's Center Party.

The economically liberal Reform Party secured 28.8 percent of the vote, according to final results posted online by the State Electoral Office.

Despite winning nowhere near a majority, Reform's leader Kaja Kallas is now on track to become Estonia's first female prime minister.

She and her party now face difficult negotiations to form a governing coalition, particularly due to the major wins by the far-right EKRE, which came in third with 17.8 percent — more than doubling its result from the last parliamentary election.

Kallas, who vowed to "put together the government and start running the country with common sense," ruled out working with the EKRE, saying it was "not a choice for us."

She did, however, say Reform would consider coalitions with three of the four other parties that entered parliament.

Rata's Center Party came in second in Sunday's poll with 23 percent and its junior partners in the current governing coalition, the center-right Pro Patria party (Fatherland) and the Social Democrats, received 11.4 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively.

A man casts his ballot during Estonia's general election (Reutres/I. Kalnins)

During the campaign, the Reform Party vowed to lower taxes

Far-right gains cause concern

All other political parties in Estonia have ruled out forming a governing coalition with the EKRE, which garnered support from voters by promising to slash taxes and by vowing to curb immigration.

The EKRE's, Martin Helme who runs the party with his father Martin, compared their strong result in Sunday's vote to swings to far-right parties across Europe and other parts of the world.

"I think Estonia is no different than almost all other countries in Europe, where there's a serious public demand for political
parties who will stand up against the globalist agenda and the ever-increasing movement of power from (European Union) member states to Brussels," he said.

Sunday's vote was closely watched across Europe, where there are fears of further gains for the far right in May's European Parliament elections.

Estonia's Reform and Center parties have alternated control of the prime minister's office over the nearly three decades since Estonia broke away from the Soviet Union. The Reform Party governed consecutively between 2005 - 2016, until the government collapsed in a no-confidence vote in November 2016.

Nearly 1 million of Estonia's 1.3 million population were eligible to vote in Sunday's parliamentary election.

The results differ widely from an opinion poll published ahead of the election which projected that Reform would come out on top, but that there would be a much tighter race with the Center Party. Several other opinion polls had predicted that Center would take the lead.

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mm/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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