TALLINN – Five of Estonia's six seats in the European Parliament were snatched up by opposition parties in a ballot that saw the lowest voter turnout in the Baltics.
Preliminary results show that the Social Democrats won three seats in EP, the Center Party two and the Pro Patria Union one, while the coalition-member Reform Party managed to gain one seat.
After all the ballots had been counted, the Social Democrats had 85,443 votes or 36.8 percent of the total, the Center Party had 40,715 votes (17.5 percent), the Reform Party 28,377 votes (11.9 percent) and Pro Patria Union 24,383 votes (10.5 percent), the Baltic News Service reported.
The ruling Res Publica (6.7 percent) and People's Party (8 percent), which came to power in March 2003 along with the Reform Party, will not have a representative in Parliament.
Prime Minister Juhan Parts told the Kanal-2 television channel that Res Publica would have to draw serious conclusions from the outcome. He reiterated that low voter activity allowed anti-EU and anti-government sentiment to dominate since European supporters tended to be more passive in taking part in elections.
Parts congratulated the Social Democrats on the results and attributed the party's success to its top candidate, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
For his part, Ilves said that the results were a wake-up call for the government and a clear "yes" to European integration. He also said many voters were fed up with the negative tone in many political ads, whereas the Social Democrats accentuated the positive.
A recent survey has shown that Res Publica's popularity has plummeted recently to around 10 percent, while that of the Center Party, whose party leadership decided not to support EU accession last August, has increased to 14 percent.
Commenting on the situation, sociologist Liisa Talving saw Res Publica's poor showing as temporary and attributable to the European Parliament election campaign, saying that Res Publica's approval was due to rise again after the elections.
"Many people just didn't get the idea of their message," Talving said.