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6 Mar, 2023 02:51

Pro-Kiev PM declares victory amid opposition claims result ‘stolen'

An Estonian right-wing faction has demanded an audit of electronic votes and refuses to concede defeat to the ruling party
Pro-Kiev PM declares victory amid opposition claims result ‘stolen'

Estonia’s ruling Reform Party performed much better than expected in parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Sunday, as her main challenger suggested the victory was “stolen” during a week-long electronic vote.

Estonians who did not cast an early vote over the internet went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament, with final results tallied by early Monday morning. The center-right Reform won 31.9% of the vote and was set to claim 37 seats in the 101-seat legislature, while its far-right rival, the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), took 15.8% and 17 seats.

“This result... will give us a strong mandate to put together a good government,” Kallas told her supporters on Sunday night, adding that it likely means the flow of aid to Ukraine will continue uninterrupted, because most other parties “have chosen the same line.”

EKRE leader Martin Helme claimed on election night that they “did everything right and with honesty, unlike those who stole our well-deserved victory.” He promised to “contest the e-vote in court” and not recognize the results until allowed to “see the logs, sections of code.”

Under Kallas’s leadership since 2021, Estonia, along with the other Baltic states, has become once of the most hardline supporters of Ukraine amid the conflict with Moscow, pledging roughly 1% of its GDP in military assistance to Kiev, and strongly backing EU sanctions on Russia.

Kallas has several potential junior partners to negotiate a new ruling coalition with, including Estonia 200 which secured 13.6% of the vote, the Social Democrats who received 9.4%, and the Fatherland party with 8.3%. However, she expressed doubt over the Centre Party’s (14.5%) commitment to aiding Ukraine, and explicitly rejected any talks with EKRE, accusing Helme of focusing too much on Estonia’s “self-interest.” 

“We’ve never questioned support for Ukraine. We’ve never questioned Estonia's membership in NATO,” Helme retorted in an interview with AP, arguing that the current leadership has “basically given away all our heavy weaponry to Ukraine” at the cost of Estonia’s national security. The party also faced criticism for other “populist” ideas, such as seeking to limit the flow of refugees, including Ukrainians, to protect Estonian workers.