Estonia votes in election test for pro-Kiev government

TALLINN, March 5 (Reuters) – Estonians began voting on Sunday in an election that pits one of Europe’s most staunchly pro-Kiev governments against rising living costs and a far-right party that stops accepting new Ukrainians. Refugees.

If Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s liberal reformist party wins national elections and successfully forms a coalition, it will cement the Baltic country’s pro-European direction, as polls predict. And Estonia will continue to try to get green energy and accept refugees from Ukraine.

Polling closes at 8pm (1800 GMT) and most constituencies are expected to announce their tally by midnight.

Reform won an election in 2019, but was forced out of power as three smaller parties formed a government. It collapsed in 2021, allowing Callas to form a coalition and take over.

The far-right EKRE party will finish in second place, according to opinion polls, with their promises to lower energy bills gaining popularity in some parts of the country by opposing a transition to green energy, as well as a pledge not to accept new Ukrainian refugees.

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Both Kallas and EKRE leader Martin Helm told Reuters this week they are confident they will lead the next coalition government.

“I hope to be prime minister, but that’s for the voters to decide,” Kallas said, adding that voters would have to choose between what he called “two completely different paths for Estonia.”

“We support an open, friendly, European-minded, smart country, I would say, and EKRE sees itself, not to help Ukraine, we should stick to our own interest,” he said.

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The EKRE-led coalition ruled out working with Callas, saying it was possible but highly unlikely, said Kantar Emory pollster Ivor Wouk.

“We hope to reach a point where we can put together a government,” Helm said, pledging to continue supporting Ukraine and stop allowing Ukrainian refugees.

“People are really scared about the future, and the main parties, especially the ruling parties, have no real answers,” he added.

About a third of eligible voters cast ballots online in the days leading up to Sunday, including Kallas. Another 15% of voters cast their ballots in advance by paper ballot.

“I want the Russian war in Ukraine to end with a Ukrainian victory. And the government will stand up for the pensioners,” Maret Veske, 88, said after voting in Tallinn.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas and Janis Laizans Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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