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Elections in Estonia | Ukraine and inflation at the heart of the debate



(Tallinn) Estonians began voting on Sunday to elect their new parliament in a poll that could bolster far-right nationalists, a party that has campaigned on opposition to further arms shipments to Ukraine.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s (centre-right) Reform Party is expected to win this election, according to most polls released this week, but it will likely need to form a coalition to stay in power.

According to these polls, he would obtain between 24% and 30% of the vote, while the far-right EKRE party is credited with 14% to 25% of the vote.

In 2019, EKRE gathered 17.8% of the votes.

“Those who do not vote for EKRE will not get rid of (the Party) the reform,” EKRE chairman Martin Helme wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

“The more confused and fractured the outcome, the more confused the government, the weaker the ruling coalition will be,” said Siim Kallas, former Estonian prime minister and EU commissioner, member of the Reform party, also on Facebook.

According to the polls, the Center Party would obtain between 16% and 19%, Estonia 200 (liberal) from 9% to 15%, the Social Democrats from 8% to 11.5% and Isamaa (center right) from 7% to 9%.

Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people bordering Russia, has a unicameral parliament with 101 seats, all at stake in Sunday’s vote.

“It is obvious that what is happening in Ukraine is very important for Estonia too, 35-year-old engineer Juhan Ressar told AFP outside a polling station in Tallinn on Sunday. […] have forgotten the importance of independence and maybe that refreshes their understanding of this situation”.

According to Pjotr ​​Mahhonin, a 62-year-old pensioner, only EKRE “represents the Estonian people”. He criticizes the Prime Minister for being “more interested in another country” (Ukraine) and in the center party of the Russian-speaking minority.

Like many Estonians, he fears war. “We have a big neighbour, Russia, and it’s very dangerous. If the war starts here, we are the frontline country,” he said.

A member of the European Union and NATO, Estonia took the lead in international calls last year for increased military aid to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Estonian military aid to Ukraine currently amounts to more than 1% of its GDP, the largest contribution of any country relative to the size of their economy.

“We advocate an open, friendly, Western-style, European, intelligent country,” Kallas told AFP of his party’s political program in an interview last week.

“My biggest competitor thinks that we shouldn’t help Ukraine, we shouldn’t support Ukraine, that we should only seek our own self-interest,” she added.

According to the leader of EKRE, Martin Helme, Estonia should “not further aggravate tensions” with Moscow.

EKRE campaigned against additional military aid to Kyiv and called for no more Ukrainian refugees to be accepted and for a reduction in immigration to protect Estonian workers.

The elections are also taking place against the backdrop of a difficult economic situation in Estonia, which has one of the highest inflation rates in the EU, with 18.6% year on year recorded in January.

Popular among entrepreneurs and young professionals, the Reform Party has promised to raise military spending to at least 3% of GDP, cut corporate taxes and wants to pass a law approving civil partnerships between like-minded people. sex.

Abstention of Russian speakers

The Center Party (centre-left), traditionally popular with Estonia’s large Russian-speaking minority, supported the government’s policy towards Ukraine and Russia.

This put off some Russian-speaking voters, which could lead to strong abstention among this minority, representing a quarter of Estonia’s population.

The party promises to invest more in infrastructure and affordable housing.

According to analysts, an alliance between the Reform Party, Estonia 200 and the Social Democrats is possible, as is that between Reform, Center and Isamaa.

EKRE’s chances of leading a coalition are considered modest.

Polls will close at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. EST) and polling results are expected after midnight.

Some 55.7% of Estonian voters have already voted by midday, either directly at polling stations or before by mail or online, according to the election commission.

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