Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s Reform Party won the general election by a large margin Sunday (5 March), scoring 31.6% against 16% for the far-right EKRE, according to near complete results.
In order to stay in power, Reform will again have to form a coalition with one or more of the parties that entered the Baltic state’s 101-seat parliament.
The Centre Party secured 14.7% of the ballot, Estonia 200 got 13.5%, while the Social Democrats received 9.4% and the Isamaa (Fatherland) party 8.3%.
“This is much better than we expected,” Kallas told reporters. “We have ruled out a coalition with EKRE and I stand by my words.”
Reform is a centre-right liberal party, affiliated to Renew Europe, that appeals to business owners and young professionals. Reform was founded by Siim Kallas, father of Kaja Kallas, in 1994, when he was President of the Bank of Estonia. Siim Kallas served as European Commissioner from 2004 to 2014. Kaja Kallas served as MEP from 2014 to 2018.
The Reform party has promised to raise military spending to at least three percent of GDP, ease taxes on business and wants to pass a law approving same-sex civil partnerships.
If Kallas, 45, succeeds in crafting a functioning coalition, it would cement the Baltic nation’s pro-European direction.
Estonia, a western neighbour of Russia with a population of 1.3 million, would also stay on course to adopt more green energy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine.
Kallas said the election left her party in a strong position to form a coalition government that would keep up calling for pressure on Russia.
“We … have to invest in our security, our aggressive neighbour has not vanished and will not vanish, so we have to work with that”, she told reporters at a central Tallin hotel where party supporters gathered for the evening.
Reform won an election in 2019 but was then kept from power as three smaller parties formed a government. It collapsed in 2021, allowing Kallas to create a coalition and take charge.
Throughout the campaign, EKRE have promised to slash energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy and to stop accepting new Ukrainian war refugees.
The party also criticised the extent of Kallas’ policy of sending weapons to Ukraine, saying it did not take into account the country’s own defence needs.
“My biggest competitor thinks that we shouldn’t help Ukraine, we shouldn’t support Ukraine, we should only look for our self-interest,” she said, referring to the far-right EKRE.
The country of 1.3 million people, which borders Russia and is a member of both the European Union and NATO, has led international calls over the past year for more military aid to help Ukraine fight off Moscow’s invasion.
Estonia’s military assistance to Ukraine amounts to more than one percent of GDP — the biggest contribution of any country relative to the size of its economy.
Speaking of aid to Ukraine, Kallas said on Sunday: “I think with such a strong mandate this will not change.”
“Other parties — except EKRE and maybe Centre — have chosen the same line. So I think we can find common ground here,” she added.
Turnout was 63.7%, in line with the previous election, and with 51% of votes cast by internet, including Kallas.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)