Winner of Estonian election loses bid to form government

By bne IntelliNews April 15, 2019

Estonia’s Reform party, which won the election in early March, failed to secure a parliamentary majority on April 15, the vote’s result now opening a possibility for the runner-up Centre party to bid for power.

Reform, led by Kaja Kallas – who would have become Estonia’s first woman prime minister if she had won the vote – received support of just 45 MPs in the 101-seat Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu.

Reform emerged victorious in the March election, having won 34 seats in the parliament, but has struggled to build a coalition.

Kallas only managed to secure support of the social democratic party SDE – which has 10 seats – while her bid lost steam earlier this month after Centre party offered the far-right group EKRE participation in a coalition with conservative party Fatherland.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid now needs to nominate a new PM candidate in seven days. The obvious pick will be Centre’s leader and still incumbent PM Juri Ratas.

"Consider for a moment whether you came here for this — whether this is what will make Estonia better," Kallas told MPs in a speech following the rejection of her bid for PM, ERR reported.

Ratas’ party looks certain to secure a majority in the Riigikogu, having already agreed coalition terms with EKRE and Fatherland. The coalition would have 56 seats.

During the campaign before the March election, both Reform and Centre parties pledged no cooperation with EKRE.

But the prospect – however feeble – of Reform striking a coalition deal with SDE and Fatherland, who are Centre’s partners in the outgoing government, pushed Ratas to consider ignoring the political consensus to remain in power.

Until now, the wide consensus in Estonian politics has been one of unwavering support for the EU and cooperation within the bloc.

Similarly to other right-wing populists that have gained in popularity in the European Union recently, EKRE is a Eurosceptic party fiercely opposed to immigration.

According to the coalition terms provided by the Estonian media, EKRE would take five ministries in case Ratas gets a chance to form the new government. The far-right would be responsible for the interior, finance, rural affairs, environment, and foreign trade ministries.

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