Estonia: Reform Party wins, far right rises

After three years in opposition the liberal Reform Party won Estonia's parliamentary elections on Sunday with just under 29 percent of the vote. Its leader Kaja Kallas is now set to become the country's first woman prime minister. Journalists discuss not just Kallas' victory but also the rise of the national conservative party Ekre, which came third with almost 18 percent of the vote.

Open/close all quotes
Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Estonia also deeply divided

Ilta-Sanomat examines the reasons for the success of the right-wing populists:

“Ekre's success shows how deeply divided Estonia is. The party secured its votes mainly in small cities and rural areas where people feel they have been left behind by the growth in the region surrounding the capital. ... At the EU level Estonia is at least partially heading in the same direction as Poland, Hungary and Italy. The populist parties are benefiting from the people's discontent, and it will no doubt be difficult to predict the result of the EU elections. The divisions among the EU member states appear to be growing.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Reaching out to smartphone voters

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung analyses how electronic voting affected the election results:

“As the figures from the central electoral commission show, the Reform Party garnered 29 percent of the total vote by securing no less than 40 percent of the online votes. This means that it was the party that was best at getting voters to use their smartphones even if they couldn't be persuaded to go to the polling stations. ... In an Estonia with a rising number of e-voters the political protagonists will have to focus more and more on the question of how to reach the interconnected population. Of the five parties that will be represented in parliament only the Reform Party managed to tap this source of votes to a far greater extent than the others.”

Postimees (EE) /

Mildness as a strength

Postimees is impressed by Reform Party chief Kaja Kallas:

“The very strong personal performance of Kaja Kallas speaks a clear language and creates a favourable position for the coalition talks. Kaja Kallas's election campaign and party leadership began somewhat shakily, accompanied by unclear issues within the party. But today one can say that Kallas has proven her worth and that what has been described as her weakness - a mild nature, the lack of belligerence - has turned out to be a strength.”

Äripäev (EE) /

Various obstacles to coalitions

Äripäev examines the question of coalition partners:

“Kallas again ruled out the possibility of a coalition with the right-wing populist Ekre on election night. But there are several coalition possibilities and the process of forming a government is likely to be interesting. A coalition with the Centre Party would be a possibility, as would one with [the conservative] Isamaa and the Social Democrats. ... The negotiations certainly won't be easy. Urmas Reinsalu, one of Isamaa's leading figures, has predicted that they will take two months. The tax issue [different concepts for income and alcohol taxes] stands like a wall between the Reform and the Centre Party. And Isamaa and the Social Democrats were those who betrayed the Reform Party in 2016 [with a vote of no confidence against their coalition partner]”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

E-voters and paper voters think differently

The digital gap in society is also reflected in voting patterns, sociologist Juhan Kivirähk writes on the website of the Estonian broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhääling:

“In the past months the Centre Party did better in face-to-face surveys while the Reform Party came out ahead in the online polls. ... On the whole there's a greater probability that the Centre Party will win. That said, the differences between the e-voters and those who will vote in Person are clear: over 30 percent of e-voters prefer the Reform Party, while only 18 percent support Centre. In the polling stations it's just the opposite.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

This time the outcome could be different

The high number of electronic votes submitted could decide the election, Õhtuleht explains:

“So far the Reform Party has always had the upper hand in the e-vote. Now it will be interesting to see whether the record number of e-votes is distributed equally between the parties. Until recently conspiracy theories had shaped the Centre Party's attitude towards the e-vote. Who knows, perhaps the party could have come to power sooner if it hadn't deprived itself of e-votes with this stance.”