Reform claims victory in Estonian general election
- By Joel Alas, TALLINN
Estonians voted to push ahead with business-friendly market reforms and tax reduction measures by returning the liberal Reform Party to power. Reform, lead by Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, collected 27.8 percent of votes in the nation's general election, held on Mar. 4.
Voters turned out in mass to voice their opinion. About 61 percent of eligible citizens cast a vote, one of the highest election participation rates in the nation's 16 year history. More than 30,000 votes were cast using the new online voting system.
Reform will now take 31 seats in the 101-seat parliament, a marked increase of 11 seats.
Reform campaigned on a platform of reducing the flat tax rate to 18 percent over four years, and to maintaining the current business tax level.
Reform was closely followed by the populist Center Party, which received 26.1 percent of votes, which translates to 29 seats in parliament, an increase of seven seats.
The conservative opposition party, the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, saw their popularity dip considerably since the last election. The party received 17.9 percent of the vote, or 19 seats. While the result was higher than predicted in pre-election opinion polls, it still represents a loss of 13 seats for the party, which is led Mart Laar.
The Social Democrats will take 10 seats in parliament after winning 10.6 percent of votes, an increase of one seat.
The newly-formed Estonian Greens were welcomed to the political sphere by collecting six seats in parliament, or 7.1 percent of votes. It represents an impressive debut for the Greens, who performed as well as the established rural party the People's Union, who also collected six seats and 7.1 percent of votes.
Ansip claimed a double victory. Not only did his party win the election, but the prime minister also set a new record for the most number of individual votes by collecting 22,556 votes. He can now claim to be the nation's most popular politician, ahead of Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar, who won 18,013 votes. Reform candidate Laine Janes, the current mayor of Tartu city, showed she was a rising political star on a national level by collecting 9,311 votes, even more than Laar, who received 9,252 votes.