Electoral nights have always more victors than losers. Leaders of political party always try to read the numbers on a positive manner. The latest parliamentary elections in Estonia were not an exception. In what regards mandates the victory was for the, currently in power, Estonian Reform Party (centre-right) that was able to win 30 mandates (securing 27,7% of the casted votes).
The parliamentary elections had also the Estonian Centre Party (centre-left) has a winner, despite the interesting biased rhetoric from the majority of Western media houses. The Estonian Centre Party was the only party, represented on Parliament, able to increase the percentage of voters from 23.3% in March 2011 to 24.8% in March 2015 (a gain of 1.5%). The Estonian Centre Party conquered 27 mandates (it had conquered 26 in the March 2011 parliamentary elections).
Four other parties were able to secure more than 5% of the votes, the threshold to get mandates at the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu). The Social Democrat Party (centre-left) was the third most voted party securing 15 mandates (15,2%), followed by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (centre-right) that conquered 14 mandates (13,7%). The newly formed Free Party (centre-right) was able to secure 8 mandates (8,7%) on its first public scrutiny and the also new Conservative People Party (right-wing) won the remaining 7 mandates (8,1%).
External dichotomy and uncertainty: NATO vs. Russia
The big topic surrounding the parliamentary elections in Estonia was the dichotomy between the pro-NATO parties and the pro-rapprochement with Russia party. The civil conflict in Ukraine, the continuous instability in Moldova and the proximity with not only Russia but with its proxy Belarus are the core concerns of the pro-NATO parties that see as vital the stronger integration with NATO, seen as a security provider and a (clearly) western-minded transnational organisation.
The Estonian Centre Party, on the other hand, advocates the need for a new rapprochement with Russia. The less than 3% difference of votes between the Estonian Centre Party and the victor Estonian Reform Party coupled with the fact that 87,800 people (around 6,5% of the electoral college) were not granted the right to vote (due to their categorisation as stateless people) opened space for reasonable doubts of some analysts. Since most of the stateless persons in Estonia are ethnic Russians (commonly known as “grey passports”) if they had the right to vote then results would probably have been slightly different.
What is clear is that the pro-NATO/EU (Reform Party and Social Democrats) and the pro-exclusivist-Estonian-minded-state (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union) parties lost a total of sixteen mandates, with the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union suffering the biggest defeat loosing nine mandates (from 23 in 2011 to only 14 in 2015). Curiously, the emergence of the Conservative People’s Party (that conquered 7 mandates and espouses some ideas of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union) somehow minimises the real impact of the defeat.
Taavi Rõivas, Prime-Minister of Estonia (and EU’s youngest prime-minister), will now have to think on a way to craft a larger coalition since the sum of mandates of the Reform Party (30 mandates) and the junior ally Social Democrat Party (15 mandates) is unable to ensure the minimum 51 mandates that grant parliamentary majority. The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (14 mandates) seems best positioned to become the new ruling coalition partner, ensuring a strong 59-votes-bloc supporting the government at the Parliament.
The election of March 1, 2015 showed the growing appetite of Estonian citizens to participate in parliamentary elections. After a turnout of 58,2% in March 2003, 61,9% in March 2007, and 63,5% in March 2011, the last elections on March 1, 2015, registered a turnout of 64,2% a refreshing number having into account the electoral fatigue that several European countries have displayed in the last decade. The pioneer usage of electronic vote, used by around 1/5 of the Estonian voters, also marked this parliamentary election.