TALLINN - Seventy-six percent of ethnic Russian voters in Tallinn voted for the leftist Center Party in the Oct. 16 local elections, an exit poll by Baltic News Service/Faktum showed.
The party, led by Economy Minister Edgar Savisaar, was also the most popular choice for ethnic Estonian Tallinn residents (see story Page 1), with 29 percent of respondents claiming they chose the Centrists.
Among other nationalities, 79 percent voted for the Center Party.
The Russian vote, according to the exit poll answers, had the liberal Reform Party as the number two with 7 percent, the Spisok Klenskogo list and the Civic Initiative 2005 list tied for third place with 5 percent of the vote each, followed by Res Publica at four percent, and the Social Democratic Party, Pro Patria Union and independents all receiving 1 percent.
The Center Party, which is described as a left-of-center formation and has numerous minority members in its ranks, has managed to maintain loyalty among its diverse constituents by using a variety of both public and partisan policies. The one recent move that endeared the party to ethnic Russians was a cooperation agreement signed with United Russia, a pro-Kremlin party that enjoys a minority in Russia's lower house of Parliament.
The Center Party has also not been shy about its Euroskepticism, a trend that is typically higher among the Baltic states' minority communities.
Also, since becoming economy minister, Savisaar has been perceived as being sympathetic to Russian business interests, particularly Spacecom, a Russian-owned cargo company that is clashing with the privately owned Estonian Railways.
Among ethnic Estonians in Tallinn, the poll suggested that 29 percent voted for the Center Party, 25 percent for the Reform Party, 19 percent for Pro Patria Union, 14 percent for the Social Democratic Party and 10 percent for Res Publica.
The Center Party was favored among older Estonian residents, while younger people most often voted for the Reform Party, according to the exit poll.
Notably, almost two-thirds of pensioners voted for the Center Party, according to the poll.