Populists set for gains in Estonia election

TALLINN: Right-wing populists were hoping to make gains as Estonians headed to the polls to elect a new parliament on Sunday.
Almost 1 million people were eligible to vote, with 101 seats up for grabs.
With 10 parties and 1,099 candidates running, no one political force is likely to get an absolute majority in the Baltic country’s eighth election since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Opinion polls predict a neck-and-neck race between the left-leaning Centre Party of Prime Minister Juri Ratas and the economically liberal Reform Party.
It is unclear whether Estonia’s three-way coalition government can survive the elections, with Ratas’ partners, the Social Democrats and the conservative Isamaa party, expected to suffer losses.
The one group set to make the biggest strides is the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), which could become the third-largest force in the Tallinn parliament. However, it is likely to remain in opposition since the established parties have ruled out forming a coalition with the right-wing populists.
Economic and sociopolitical issues have dominated the campaign in the run-up to the elections, with the country still reeling from a money-laundering scandal that engulfed the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.
Estonia was the first European country to introduce online voting for elections in 2005; this year, more than one in four voters has already submitted his or her ballot digitally — a new record fore-voting. Initial results are expected late on Sunday or early Monday. — DPA