Estonia votes in an electoral test for the pro-Kiev government

Tallinn (Reuters) – Estonians went to the polls on Sunday in an election that pitted one of Europe’s most staunchly pro-Kiev governments against a far-right party seeking to cash in on anger over a rising cost of living and which will stop accepting new Ukrainians. refugees.

If, as opinion polls predict, Prime Minister Kaja Klas’s Liberal Reform Party wins the national elections and succeeds in forming a coalition, it will strengthen the pro-European trend in the Baltic country. Estonia will also remain on track to embrace more green energy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine.

Polling stations close at 8 pm (1800 GMT) and most constituencies are expected to announce the counting of votes by midnight.

Islah won the 2019 elections, but was removed from power after three smaller parties formed a government. He collapsed in 2021, allowing Klass to form an alliance and take over.

The far-right EKRE party may end up in second place, according to opinion polls, as their promises to lower energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy are proving popular in some parts of the country, as is their pledge not to accept the new. Ukrainian refugees.

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Klass and EKRE leader Martin Helme told Reuters this week that they hope to lead the next coalition government.

“I hope to stay on as prime minister, but it’s up to the voters to decide,” Klass said, adding that voters had to choose between what she called “two very different paths for Estonia.”

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She said, “We support the smart, open, friendly, European-minded country, and EKRE is looking more towards itself, and that we should stick to our own interest, not to help Ukraine.”

A coalition led by EKRE, which Klass has ruled out working with, is possible but not very likely, said Ivar Fogg, a pollster at Kantar Emor.

“We hope to achieve a situation where we can form a government,” said Helme, who pledged to continue supporting Ukraine while stopping accepting more Ukrainian refugees.

“People are really afraid of the future and the main parties, especially the ruling parties, don’t have real answers,” he added.

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

“I want the Russian war in Ukraine to end with a victory for Ukraine. And this government will stand up for the pensioners,” Marit Fisk, 88, said after casting his vote in Tallinn.

(Reporting by Andrios Sitas and Janice Lysance; Editing) By Alexandra Hudson and Emilia Sithole Mataris

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