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Kaja Kallas' Reform Party wins general election in Estonia

Parliamentary elections were held on Sunday in Estonia for the renewal of the 101-seat local parliament, the Riigikogu.

According to the results provided by the National Electoral Council, the party of the incumbent Prime Minister Kaja Kallas - the center-right and liberal Reform Party - won with 32% of the votes. 63.56% of eligible voters casted their votes, a turnout similar to that of the previous 2019 election. Polls had largely predicted a victory for the Reform Party, but Kallas’ party exceeded every expectation. The Reform Party obtained 37 of the 101 seats available and will have to find an agreement with the other parties to form a government coalition.

The Reform Party is likely to seek an agreement with the Social Democratic Party and Isamaa, which won 9 and 8 seats. Such a coalition would allow for a majority of 54 seats in the Riigikogu.

The far-right and populist Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) obtained only 15.7% of the votes and is therefore likely to fail to form a coalition government capable of opposing Prime Minister Kallas.

Estonia’s general election is held in a proportional electoral system with a 5% threshold. The big surprise of this election was Estonia 200, a party that in 2019 had arrived just below the threshold. In Sunday's election, Estonia 200 won 13.7% of the vote, making it the fourth most-voted party, and will have 14 seats in the next parliament.

Sunday's election in Estonia was seen as a referendum on government action about the support for Ukraine, the country invaded by the Russian Federation on February 24 of the last year. Kallas was among the most explicit supporters of harsh measures against Russia, as well as the strengthening of the military presence of NATO (the military alliance that includes a large part of Western countries) on the eastern European flank, which is the one closest to Russia. On several occasions, Kallas has made it clear that she considers the defense of Ukraine as a defense of democracy as a Western value.

Kallas' position towards Russia is partly rooted in her family history – her mother was deported to Siberia like thousands of other people during the Soviet occupation of Estonia – and reflects a sentiment shared by a large part of the citizenry, and transversal to other parties as well.

The main opposition party, EKRE, has strongly opposed Kallas' support for the Ukrainian resistance. Martin Helme, the EKRE candidate, accused Kallas of having sent too many howitzers (cannons) to Ukraine, leaving the Estonian army unmanned and unable to defend itself, during a debate held on January 27.

Incumbent Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)Incumbent Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The same goes for the other major opposition party, the Center Party, which adopted favorable positions towards Russia until March of the last year. The Center Party has been allied with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's party United Russia until March 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The previous government coalition was formed by Prime Minister Kallas’ Reform Party and the Center Party. However, in June 2022 it was dissolved by Kallas, officially due to some friction over welfare policies.

In July 2022, the Reform Party formed a new government coalition with the Social Democratic Party and Isamaa, which could be formed again following yesterday's election. If the Reform Party were to extend the government coalition to include Estonia 200, a particularly solid majority of 68 seats might be formed.


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