Estonians went to the polls in a vote that pitted one of the most ardently pro-Kyiv governments in Europe against a far-right party that wanted to capitalize on resentment over growing living costs and would cease accepting new Ukrainian refugees.
The liberal Reform party of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will solidify the Baltic nation’s pro-European course if it wins the national election as predicted by polls and forms a coalition. Along with continuing to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, Estonia would maintain its plan to use more green energy.
The polls close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), with most electoral districts expected to report their tallies by midnight.
Reform won an election in 2019 but was then kept from power as three smaller parties formed a government. It collapsed in 2021, allowing Kallas to create a coalition and take charge.
The far-right EKRE party may end up in second place, according to opinion polls, as their promises to slash energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy are proving popular in some parts of the country, as is the pledge to not accept new Ukrainian refugees.
Kallas and EKRE leader Martin Helme both told Reuters this week they hope to lead the next coalition government.
“I hope to stay prime minister, but it’s up to the voters to decide”, Kallas said, adding voters must choose between what she called “two totally different ways for Estonia”.
“We are supporting the open, friendly, European-minded, smart country, I would say, and EKRE is looking more into itself, that we should stick to our own interest, not to help Ukraine,” she said.
A coalition led by EKRE, who Kallas has ruled out working with, is possible but not very likely, said Aivar Voog, a pollster at Kantar Emor.
“We do hope to achieve a position where we can put together a government”, said Helme, who pledged to continue to support Ukraine but stop admitting more Ukrainian refugees.
“People are really scared about the future, and the main parties, especially the governing parties, have no real answers,” he added.
A third of eligible voters cast their vote via the internet in the days leading up to Sunday, including Kallas. A further 15% of voters voted by paper ballots in advance.
“I want the Russian war in Ukraine to end with Ukrainian victory. And that government would stand for pensioners”, said Maret Veske, 88, after casting his vote in Tallinn.