TALLINN (Reuters) – Estonians go to the polls on Sunday as one of Europe’s most staunchly pro-Kyiv governments faces a challenge from a far-right party seeking to capitalise on anger at rising living costs and which would shut out further Ukrainian refugees.
If, as opinion polls predict, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ liberal Reform party wins the election and successfully crafts a coalition it would cement the Baltic nation’s pro-European direction. Estonia would also stay on course to adopt more green energy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine.
The polls close at 20.00 local time (18.00 GMT), with most electoral districts expected to report their tallies by midnight.
Reform won an election in 2019 but was then kept from power as three smaller parties formed a government. That coalition collapsed in 2021, allowing Kallas to create a coalition and take charge.
The far-right EKRE party may end up in second place, according to opinion polls, as their promises to slash energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy are proving popular in some parts of the country, as is the pledge to not admit further Ukrainian refugees.
Political Cartoons on World Leaders
Kallas and EKRE leader Martin Helme both told Reuters this week they hope to lead the next coalition government.
“I hope to stay prime minister, but it’s up to the voters to decide”, Kallas said, adding voters must choose between what she called “two totally different ways for Estonia”.
“We are supporting the open, friendly, European-minded, smart country, I would say, and EKRE is looking more into itself, that we should stick to our own interest, not to help Ukraine,” she said.
A coalition led by EKRE, who Kallas has ruled out working with, is possible but not very likely, said Aivar Voog, a pollster at Kantar Emor.
“We do hope to achieve a position where we can put together a government”, said Helme, who pledged to continue to support Ukraine but stop accepting Ukrainian refugees.
“People are really scared about the future, and the main parties, especially the governing parties, have no real answers,” he added.
A third of elegible voters cast their vote via the internet in the days leading up to Sunday, including Kallas. A further 15% of voters voted by paper ballots in advance.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.