We have a winner in Estonia

As I suggested on Friday, counting in Estonia didn’t take long, with results finalised this morning.

The incumbent coalition government has been defeated, losing eight seats in total to finish with 48 of the 101 seats – not enough for a majority.

Each of its three component parties went backwards, but it will surprise no-one who’s been following European politics for the last couple of years to learn that the Social Democrats did worst, losing about a third of their vote (down to 9.8%) and five of their 15 seats.

The Centre Party of prime minister Jüri Ratas held most of its support, finishing with 23.1% of the vote (down 1.7%) and 26 seats (down one), while the centre-right Pro Patria managed 11.4% (down 2.3%) and 12 seats (down two).

In the lead again, but with a bigger margin than last time, was the opposition Reform Party (basically free-market liberal) with 28.8% (up 1.1%) and 34 seats (up four). The only other party to win seats was the far-right Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), which more than doubled its vote to 17.8% and won 19 seats (up 12).

So Reform and EKRE together would have a majority, but their politics seem incompatible and Reform’s leader Kaja Kallas has ruled out the idea.

That means either luring Pro Patria and the Social Democrats back into the fold (they walked out an a Reform-led government in 2016), or else Reform and Centre governing together – which is not impossible, since they are both nominally liberal, although they have different views on economic and security policies.

The BBC maintains that “Reform and Centre have alternated in power” since 1991, but in fact the current government is the first time Centre has held the prime ministership. It did serve, however, in Reform-led governments in 2002-03 and 2005-07, and Ratas has implied that it could do so again.

A previous version of the same BBC report mentioned that in addition to the top three placegetters “About five or six other smaller parties are also expected to win seats,” but that was never the case. The only other party that seemed likely to clear the 5% threshold was the new centrist party, Estonia 200: it just missed out, with 4.5%. The Greens were next on just 1.8%. Turnout was 63.1%, just slightly down on last time.

So if this first EU election sets the trend for the year, it seems not much has changed. The centre-left is still doing badly, the far right (although Estonia’s is a good deal less extreme than in some places) is still making gains but is well short of forcing its way into government, and the forces of the political establishment are in somewhat better shape than the media would have you believe.


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