Next Estonian government to be defined by parliamentary elections results

The voting in the parliamentary elections in Estonia, one of the leaders in supporting Ukraine, began on February 27. Although the election will take place on March 5, those who wish to vote can do so online during the week preceding the election.

Kaja Kallas is the favorite of the elections to be re-elected

Political scientists are predicting who will lead the next Estonian government. The current prime minister and chairperson of the liberal Reform party, Kaja Kallas, is the favorite to be re-elected.

The re-election of Kallas is “extremely likely,” according to Tonis Saarts, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Tallinn University’s School of Governance, Law, and Society.

Support for Kallas has grown due to her high profile since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to assumptions that she could be the next NATO Secretary General. Because of the rapidly shifting geopolitical context and the war, the Estonian prime minister swiftly became popular.

Chances of the leaders of far-right and Center parties

Unexpected outcomes remain possible, however, because both Martin Helme, the head of the far-right EKRE party, and Juri Ratas, the chairman of the Centre party, have significant support in Estonia.

Since the dissolution of the Centre-Reform coalition in 2022, Estonia’s ruling coalition has consisted of Reform, the centre-left SDE, and the right-leaning Isamaa. The departure of the Centre party came after weeks of political skirmishes, including a vote on an education bill in which the Centre party voted against the government and instead with the EKRE opposition.

After the March 5 election, Kallas may be able to maintain power in the form of the current coalition, with the participation of the currently non-parliamentary Estonia 200 party or with a new alliance with the Centre party, which is less likely. 

Possible configurations of the next government coalition

EKRE, on the other hand, may be able to establish a government with the Centre and Ismaa. All potential configurations would maintain the country’s strong support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

If Kallas is re-elected, the most likely alliance will be the Central and Reform parties, as it was four years ago.

While Reform’s support curve has shifted lower in the last two weeks, Kallas has not witnessed a corresponding drop in support. She has recently risen in popularity, according to a poll of respondents on who should be Estonia’s next prime minister.

Latest polls in Estonia before the elections

38.3% of respondents said they wanted Kallas to return as premier after the March 5 elections. 

Former Prime Minister, Centre Party leader and current Riigikogu speaker Juri Ratas came in second with 19.5% of the vote. At the same time, he outperforms his party in popularity; Centre is third overall, trailing the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia.

According to the most recent poll, EKRE leader Martin Helme was the third-most popular option for the next prime minister, although his support has also dropped to 12%.

Political forces supporting Russian narratives

The Center Party has traditionally been regarded as Estonia’s primary pro-Russian force. It is one of the country’s leading political forces, mainly focused on ethnic Russians.

Nevertheless, the Centrists were categorical when it came to the Russian war against Ukraine, which is not what one would anticipate from parties with a “pro-Russian” image in other nations. To entirely rid themselves of Putin supporters, the Centrists expelled members notorious for pro-Russian remarks.

As a result, this “moderately pro-Russian” party, which claimed to be the country’s leader for many years, is losing ground.

According to the most recent polls, the Centrists have already slipped to third place, passing the right-wing populist party EKRE. According to the most recent surveys, EKRE and the Centrists have 18.6% and 16.4% support, respectively.

Rise of right populists in Estonia

The issue is that the EKRE party is articulating the strongest anti-Ukrainian sentiment in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war and the EU support of Ukraine. And the most crucial issue is that this party can enter the next government creation.

EKRE members do not support Russia or Putin. The populists disguised as conservatives continually warn about Russia’s dangers and the need to prepare for a probable Russian invasion.

But this political force, however, pushes theses that are blatantly useful to the Kremlin.

First and foremost, EKRE opposes accepting Ukrainian refugees. The second problematic premise of EKRE is that by providing weapons to Ukraine, Estonia becomes defenceless against a hypothetical Russian attack.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas accused EKRE of pushing Russian theses during the election campaign.

The rise of vociferous populists in Estonia’s government could endanger the support of Ukraine in fighting the Russian invasion and Europe as a whole. We’ll find out which scenario prevails on March 5.

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