Estonian Nationalist-Populists Surge in Elections

The center-right Reform Party's win puts party leader Kaja Kallas on track to become Estonia's first female prime minister.

The 'far-right' also scored big after gaining support with an anti-immigration platform.

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.

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The Center Party came in second with 23 percent, edging out the far-right EKRE, who managed to garner 17.8 percent of the vote — more than doubling their result from the last parliamentary election and making them the third-strongest party in Estonia's 101-seat parliament.

The junior partners in Ratas governing coalition, the center-right Pro Patria party and the Social Democrats, received 11.4 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively.

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.

The results put Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas on track to become Estonia's first female prime minister, although she and her party will face difficult negotiations to form a governing coalition — particularly due to the major wins by the EKRE.


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

Besides partnering with EKRE, Kallas told public broadcaster ETV that the Reform Party would "keep all coalition options on the table."

She added that her pro-business party has "strong differences with Centre in three areas: taxation, citizenship, and education."

The 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.

You can read this article as it originally appears at Deutsche Welle here.

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(PHOTO: Aaron Geddes Photography / Getty Images)

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