Kallas ahead in polls as Estonians cast their ballots

| 2023-03-04 2 min read

Kallas ahead in polls as Estonians cast their ballots

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Estonian voters go to the polls on Sunday 5 March, after a campaign that focussed on the country’s cost of living crisis and national security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, ahead of the vote to fill the 101-seat Parliament (Riigikogu), Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was judged the clear winner of the party leaders’ televised election debate.

The following day, Kallas’s Reform Party was polling at 28%, ahead of the right-wing nationalist Conservative People’s Party of Estonia EKRE on 17%.

Kallas was not resting on her laurels, however, writing that “it is clear that the big election confrontation is between the Reform Party and EKRE, because we represent two radically different directions for Estonia.”

The other parties expected to retain their places in Parliament are Center, which has 16% support, the Social Democrats (10%) and the Christian-conservative Isamaa (8%).

An expected newcomer to Parliament is the reformist socially and economically liberal party Estonia 200 (E200), which narrowly missed the 5% threshold in 2019, but is now polling at 14%.

Kallas judged to have won TV debate

Assessing the pre-election mood, Europe Elects wrote that “the Estonian public, at least the socially liberal part, when faced with a choice of a strong and stable government with Reform or supposed reform and potential chaos with E200, seems to be willing to put their issues aside towards the traditional party of government at an ominous time such as this and support Reform rather than risk change with E200.”

During Wednesday’s debate, Kallas admitted that Estonia’s gross domestic product fell by 4.1% in the final quarter of 2022, and by 1.3% in the year as a whole. She argued that Estonia’s economic recovery had come sooner than elsewhere in Europe in the wake of the Covid pandemic, meaning it is now more difficult to achieve economic growth. 

Inflation has been high, but it has not accelerated over the last six months, unlike in other countries, Kallas reasoned, adding that although “all European economies will naturally be affected in a war situation (her) government has worked to extricate the Estonian economy from this situation”.

Kallas stresses security, green reform, Estonian education

On Thursday, the day after the debate, she highlighted her comments that “Estonia’s security begins with Ukraine. We must support them both militarily and economically as they fight for their freedom and democratic values.”

Kallas also drew attention to her points on green reform and education. “Good education is important for the preservation of Estonian language and culture. We have to do everything so that by 2030 the entire Estonian education system would be in Estonian,” she said.

“This is the only way we can ensure all members of society have equal opportunities for a successful future. Green reform is our opportunity of this century. If we act smart and fast, our economy will be on the winners side in the future,” she added.

The nation of 1.3 million last held general elections in 2019, when Kallas scored a surprise victory. Reform won 34 seats, as four other political parties made the 5% threshold: Center (26), EKRE (19), Isamaa (12) and the Social Democrats (10).