Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, a triumph for one of the most pro-Ukrainian voices in the EU and NATO.
Kallas’ liberal reformist party came out on top in Sunday’s vote, winning 37 out of 101 seats in the Estonian parliament and putting her in pole position to continue as prime minister and form a new coalition.
The far-right nationalist Ekre party came second, its highest ranking, although it lost two seats to finish 17.
Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people that borders Russia, has been one of the EU’s strongest supporters of Ukraine. Kallas has been a vocal critic of Russia since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. His frequent appearances in the international media allowed Estonia to punch above its weight as it pushed other leaders to send more weapons to Ukraine, impose sweeping sanctions on Russia and strengthen the defense of the three Baltic States.
President Alar Karis urged parliamentary parties on Monday to quickly agree on a new coalition. “The current situation does not favor a long period of uncertainty between the outgoing government which is packing its bags and the incoming coalition which is starting up,” the nonpartisan president said.
Kallas’ landslide victory – the Reform Party took three seats and increased its vote share – gives him several opportunities to secure a majority in parliament, including a three-party coalition with two other liberal-leaning groups.
Reform now has 37 seats, Ekre 17, Center 16, the new liberal party Eesti 200 14 and Kallas’ two current coalition partners – the Social Democrats and Isamaa – nine and eight respectively. Fifty-one seats are needed for a majority.
Estonia’s international image was damaged and its political system shaken after the 2019 elections when the reformists, despite also securing first place, failed to form a coalition. Instead, Ekre and the Center Party, popular with Estonia’s large Russian-speaking minority, formed a contentious two-year government. The Center party, the big loser in Sunday’s election, lost 10 seats.
During their time in power, the nationalists insulted many of Estonia’s closest allies, including US President Joe Biden and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. The coalition collapsed in scandal two years ago, leaving Kallas free to finally form a coalition and deal with both the Covid-19 crisis and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kallas said on Sunday night the reformists would talk to all parties but have already ruled out a coalition with Ekre. “We are very grateful for your evaluation of our work,” she added.
Estonia is pushing its NATO allies to announce a bigger military presence in the Baltic states when they meet for a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July. Kallas said the Financial Times last week that Western unity was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain but that support for Ukraine must continue until it was victorious in the war against Russia.