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Op 1 maart 2015 werden de verkiezingen in Estland gehouden. De opkomst was 64,2 procent, een weinig meer dan de voorgaande jaren. De neoliberale Hervormingspartij (Reform Party) is als winnaar uit de bus gekomen en verkreeg 30 van de 101 zetels. De Centrumpartij volgde met 27 zetels. Op de derde plaats kwamen de Sociaal Democraten met 15 zetels en daarna de IRL met 14 zetels. De nieuwkomers EVA en EKRE vulden de overige zetels op en kregen er 8 en 7.
Aanvankelijk vroeg de Reform Party alle partijen met uizondering van de Centrum Parrij aan de coalitieonderhandelingen mee te doen, maar inmiddels heeft de Vrijheids Partij de onderhandelingstafel verlaten vanwege een geschil over de belastingen. Nu doen nog maar drie partijen aan de onderhandelingen mee, maar zowel de Sociaal Democraten als de IRL wijzen op hun sterke positie. Bovendien heeft de Reform Party voor de verkiezingen aangegeven geen coalitie te zullen aangaan met de Centrumpartij wat de positie van de sociaal democtagen en de IRL alleen maar verstrekt. Een bijkomstigheid is nog dat de partijleider van de Centrumpartij in een ziekenhuis is opgemnomen en in coma wordt gehouden. Ook al komt hij weer uit het ziekenhuis, dan nog is het de vraag of hij in staat is als politicus volledig mee te doen. Een nieuw leiderschap kan het politieke landschap geheel veranderen.
Hieronder een analyse van Signe Sildever (Estland), verbonden aan Maatsricht University.
Sunday, the first of March was the main election day in Estonia to determine the composition of the parliament, known as Riigikogu. A total of 64,2% of the electorate cast their votes which marked a slight increase in the election activity compared to the previous elections where the election activity was at 63,5%.
The leader of the previous coalition, the neoliberal Reform Party won the elections and obtained 30 seats out of 101 available. The Centre Party came second and will hold 27 seats in the new parliament. The coalition partner of the Reform Party, the Social Democrats won 15 seats and the other major opposition party, the conservative IRL obtained 14 places. Both newcomers, EVA and EKRE crossed the 5% thresholds, filling up the remaining 8 and 7 seats respectively. Most commentators perceive the outcome to be slightly different than expected- the polls indicated until the last days a narrow victory for the Centre Party and less seats for the newcomers. However, as pointed out by foreign media, the elections were conducted under the shadow of the conflict in Ukraine and the apparent success of the Centre Party may have mobilized some people to change preference to the Reform Party to the last minute, rather than voting for the other parties to prevent neutrality-oriented Centre Party from winning. A lot of votes could thus be seen as votes against the Centre Party, rather than for the Reform Party and given to them because they were the main competitors. This is further substantiated by the campaign of the Reform Party of the last few weeks leading to the elections as their advertisement emphasized heavily how little votes the Reform Party still needs to win the elections ahead of the Centre Party, thus keeping Estonia on the Westoriented track it has been on since restoring her the independence in 1991.
Immediately after the elections the Reform Party proposed consultations to all parliament parties except for the Centre Party who was excluded as a coalition partner early on in the election campaign. The possible combinations vary from a one seat majority coalition to a near super-majority, depending who are the coalition partner. What is obvious though is the need for at least three parties to form the government as the only two parties with a combined number of seat of more than 51 are the Centre Party and the Reform Party. This differs from the previous coalition which had the majority with only two partners, first the Reform Party and IRL and later Reform and the Social Democrats.
However, since Thursday EKRE has also been excluded due to a politically incorrect statement made by one of their new parliament members which the party did not distance themselves with a sufficient speed, labeling it as an attack against them as a conservative party. This leaves Social Democrats, the EVA and IRL as potential coalition members at the leadership of the Reform Party. For the first time in the recent history, the official coalition consultations will involve four parties, which is unusual given that the majority could also be achieved with three members. There is no equivocal opinion as to why the Reform Party has decided to come to an agreement with more members than strictly necessary. One explanation put forward is that with a combination Reform, Social Democrats and EVA there is a risk that EVA as a new and untested parliament force will not always vote as one block so IRL is also needed to ensure the legislation will pass. Alternatively, the inclusion of EVA by the Reform could be seen as a measure to place pressure on the Social Democrats and IRL to make larger concessions if they want to secure their place in the coalition and the achievement of at least some of their election promises.
So even though the Reform Party won the elections, their position is not easy given the need for at least two partners. Whether they will be able to form a coalition will depend on the ambitions and considerations of the Social Democrats and IRL who are in a position of power as Reform cannot turn to the Centre Party. However, also these two parties have announced there will be no cooperation with the Centre Party so if there is no agreement with the Reform Party they must either take back their word on this promise (and risk losing a number of voters to Reform in the next elections) or run the risk of new elections as there will be no government.
It seems the most likely that there will be a coalition with the Reform Party, the Social Democrats and IRL with a very strong leadership by Reform. However, it could also be predicted this government would not last for the full term of four years. In such a coalition neither IRL nor definitely the Social Democrats would be in a position to deliver of their election promises. Withdrawing in the beginning of the next election campaign would be a face-saving exercise from that perspective as they could tell their voters they left the government because the first two years in the office proved to be futile in terms of making the Reform Party accept at least some of their elections. Thus, it is clear that the two new small parties have made an indirect impact on the political landscape by taking the seats away from everyone except the Centre Party (who gained three seats) and forcing the three to cooperate.