Estonia’s incumbent leader Kaja Kallas on course for election win – POLITICO
Estonia’s incumbent Prime Minister Kaja Kallas appeared to have cleared the first of two electoral hurdles blocking her path to a second term on Sunday with her center-right Reform Party on course for a comfortable general election win.
After 404 of 405 voting stations had reported results and online voting had been tallied, Reform was on track to take 37 of 101 seats in parliament — a three-seat improvement on the last election in 2019 — while far-right rival the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) was in second place with 17 seats, two fewer seats than four years ago.
The Center Party appeared to have won 16 seats as the third most popular party, while newcomers Estonia 200 were on track for 14 seats. The Social Democrats and Fatherland parties, who currently govern alongside Reform, were in line for 9 and 8 seats, respectively.
Kallas’ fate is in sharp focus because of her role as one of Europe’s staunchest supporters of Ukraine. She now faces a second challenge after Sunday’s results: stitching together a stable majority coalition to run the Baltic state of 1.3 million, or face being pushed out of power by a coalition potentially built around EKRE and the Center Party.
She could try to reform her current three-party majority coalition (Reform, Social Democrats and Fatherland), which Sunday night’s results suggested would have 54 seats, or try to reach common ground with Center or Estonia 200. A tie-up with EKRE seems highly unlikely as the liberal Reform Party and nationalist EKRE have repeatedly clashed over economic and immigration policy, with EKRE seeking to drastically cut immigration into Estonia.
Reform’s strong performance on Sunday appeared to have put Kallas in a good position to build a majority government and continue as premier.
“It seems that the voter has spoken … from what I gathered from the screen, we did quite well for ourselves,” Kallas said as the votes came in, national broadcaster ERR reported. “I want to thank all voters. I thank you for your trust,” she said.
Kyiv’s key ally
Amid the war in Ukraine, Kallas has relentlessly pushed for a ramp-up in military suppliers to the war-torn state and a reinforcement of NATO troop numbers along Europe’s eastern edge.
Her long-standing criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which predated Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, is now widely seen as prescient, which has given her recent calls to stand firm in the face of Putin’s threats extra credibility.
“If we want peace and not to become Russia’s next target, we must support Ukraine,” she said in a speech before the election.
Kallas’ Reform Party has led Estonia since 2021 after an earlier coalition government made up of the Center Party, EKRE and Fatherland collapsed.
Kallas herself has proved a popular leader over her two years in power with polls consistently suggesting she was the most popular prime ministerial candidate ahead of Sunday’s vote.
A preliminary vote tally suggested she had secured 31,102 votes, a record for a single candidate, ERR reported.
In her victory speech, she sought to spread the credit.
“All our candidates who have done a brilliant job, brought home all these votes … It is teamwork, no one can do it alone,” she said.
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