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Mar 3, 2019 | Europe

Identity And Economy Key Issues As Estonians Vote In General Elections

By RFI
Reuters/I. Kalnins
Reuters/I. Kalnins

Taxes, immigration and the Russian ethnic minority are key issues, as nearly 900,000 eligible Estonian voters go to the polls.

Estonians vote for their parliamentary representatives on Sunday as the populist ticket has caught the eye of some million registered voters.

Estonia's parliamentary vote will determine a four-year mandate in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature.

The main party contenders include Prime Minister Juri Ratas' leftist Centre Party and the centre-right Reform Party, which includes a number of populist candidates.

However, both are battling to keep out the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), a Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, homophobic political group run by a father and son duo, Mart and Martin Helme. EKRE has gained numerous supporters since the 2015 elections.

Slight advantage for Centre Party, polls suggest

Polls indicate that the Centre Party and Reform Party are extremely close in the running, although Centre has a slight advantage. EKRE comes in third.

More than a quarter of the voters had already cast their votes online before the end of February, but no online voting is allowed on election day.

Voters are primarily concerned with social and economic issues, including taxation.

Ratas' Centre Party has the backing of ethnic Russians, who are 25 percent of Estonia's 1.3 million population. The former Soviet republic is also a member of NATO and the European Union.

The Prime Minister has been leading a coalition that includes the Social Democrats and the conservative Fatherland party since November 2016, when the former centre-right government lost a vote of confidence.

The Reform Party is looking to gains seats after some internal wrangling forced several changes in the party chairman over the last few years. Kaja Kallas, its current leader, became the first woman to head the party last year since its inception in the early 1990s.

The Reform Party stands behind liberal economic policies. The party held the prime minister post between 2005 and 2016.

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