Reform Party wins Estonian election, nationalist EKRE makes huge gains

Reform Party wins Estonian election, nationalist EKRE makes huge gains
Reform’s leader, Kaja Kallas, could now become Estonia’s first female prime minister.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw March 4, 2019

The liberal Eesti Reformierakond (Reform Party) won the Estonian election on March 3, moving ahead of the incumbent centre-left Keskerakond (Centre Party) and the rising nationalists from EKRE, results showed.

The victory for the Reform Party is a slight surprise, as polls showed Centre Party – which rose to power in 2016 after years in political isolation because of its pro-Russia stance – consistently in the lead.

Reform’s leader, Kaja Kallas, a lawyer and former member of the European Parliament, could now become Estonia’s first female prime minister. 

Reform won 28.8% of the vote, which gave it 34 seats in the 101-seat parliament, the Riigikogu. The Centre Party won 23% and 26 seats.

The biggest gain was 19 seats for EKRE, the nationalist party with a populist anti-immigration and EU-sceptical programme. 

Conservatists from Isamaa (Fatherland) won 11.4% of the vote and seats while social democrats from SDE were the last party to clear the 5% threshold required to win seats, having won 9.8% of the vote and 10 seats.

The momentum now moves to building a coalition. The huge gain for EKRE – 12 seats more in comparison to the previous election – could mean that the two main parties, Reform and Centre, team up in a government for the first time since 2003.

But a coalition with Fatherland and SDE could also give Kallas a majority in the parliament and she did not rule out any options on the election night.

Regardless of the composition of the new government, it is set to remain staunchly pro-EU and pro-Nato, the two fundaments of the Estonian politics.

Estonia’s GDP growth slowed down 1pp to still solid 3.9% in 2018.