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1 Apr, 2024 15:30

EU state plans to ban Russians from voting

Estonia’s ruling party and its coalition partners have said their goal is to reduce Moscow’s influence in the capital, Tallinn
EU state plans to ban Russians from voting

Estonia’s ruling Reform Party has announced it will introduce a draft law forbidding citizens of third countries from taking part in municipal elections in the country. If passed, the legislation would mainly affect Russian citizens who reside in the EU and NATO member.

Last month, the Russian-speaking mayor of Tallinn, Mikhail Kolvart, left his post after the City Council passed a vote of no confidence following a corruption scandal over the construction of a mall in the Estonian capital. Kolvart, a member of the Center Party, did not himself face any corruption charges.

The mayor’s exit prompted the collapse of the coalition between the Center Party and the Social Democratic Party in the City Council. On Sunday, the country’s ruling Reform Party began talks to form a new alliance in Tallinn with the social democrats and the Isamaa and Eesti 200 parties, which would exclude the centrists. The clampdown on the voting rights of citizens from third countries is among the key demands of the conservative Isamaa party in the negotiations.

“We still find that Tallinn cannot hide. It is where 46% of the Estonian GDP is generated. This is a matter of security, and Tallinn simply throwing its hands up and refusing to address it is comical,” Riina Solman, the head of Isamaa’s branch in Tallinn, said on Monday.

The promotion of “Estonian language and pro-Estonian sentiment” is a priority for the party as this will be used “to remove Russian influence from Tallinn city management,” Solman stressed, as cited by the ERR broadcaster. According to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Russian speakers make up 20% of Estonia’s population of just under 1.4 million.

The Reform Party’s top negotiator in the coalition talks, Partel-Peeter Pere, stressed that his party fully shares Isamaa’s concerns about the voting rights of Russians, saying that “it needs to stop.”

According to Pere, a law banning third-country citizens from taking part in local elections will be presented to the parliament by the Reform Party no later than next week.

Estonia has fully backed Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia, with the former Soviet Republic providing Kiev with over $500,000 in military aid and calling for increasingly tough measures against Moscow.