Estonia has elected a new parliament. A dominant theme was Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and its aftermath. Can Prime Minister Kaja Kallas convince the Estonians with her course?
Overshadowed by the effects of the Russian war against Ukraine, Estonia has elected a new parliament. According to polls before the election, a victory for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ liberal business reform party was on the horizon. Kallas, who became the first woman to head Estonia’s government in 2021, is considered one of the most resolute supporters of Ukraine in Europe.
The 45-year-old currently leads a three-party coalition with the Social Democrats and the conservative party Isamaa. However, it is unclear whether this alliance can remain in power despite the high approval ratings for Kallas. A total of up to six parties could make it into the parliament of the Baltic EU and NATO country. The first official results are expected on Monday night.
Possible coalitions after the election are likely to be determined in particular by the performance of the two opposition forces – the right-wing populist party EKRE and the left-wing Center Party. The liberal group Eesti 200 also has good chances of entering parliament for the first time. Even before the vote, pollsters and experts expected a difficult government formation.
One of the dominant issues of the election campaign was Russia’s war against Ukraine, which in Estonia is seen as a direct threat to national security. The Baltic state shares an almost 300-kilometer border with Russia. The war also raised sensitive issues in dealing with one’s own society. About a quarter of the approximately 1.2 million inhabitants of Estonia are of Russian origin.
Since Russia’s attack, Kallas has emerged as a staunch supporter of EU sanctions on Moscow and advocates for arms sales to Kiev. She also resolutely called for a strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. “Ukraine is also fighting for Estonia,” she emphasized again in the television debate of the top candidates. Under her leadership, the country of 1.2 million people gave the equivalent of more than one percent of its economic output in the form of military aid to Ukraine and took in more than 60,000 war refugees.
EKRE boss Martin Helme accused the government of endangering its own defense capabilities through its commitment to Ukraine. He also accuses Kallas of a failed economic policy: Due to the rapid increase in inflation, the cost of living has risen sharply – the rate of inflation was recently almost 18 percent. This causes great concern for many citizens.
A special feature of the election was the possibility of voting via the Internet, which Estonia was the first country in Europe to introduce. This time, almost a third of the 966,000 eligible voters put their cross online before the actual election day – a new record. Among them were President Alar Karis and Kallas. According to preliminary data from the election commission in Tallinn, turnout was 63.7 percent.