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Estonia - Election 2011

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's center-right coalition sought re-election in March 2011. If it succeeded, it would be the first administration to serve two consecutive terms since independence in 1991. Opinion polls predicted Ansips center-right Reform Party and its coalition partner, the conservative Pro Patria Res Publica Union, should gain a comfortable 54 percent of the vote. But victory was far from certain. A poll cited by the Estonian Public Broadcasting organization found 44 percent of voters were undecided on the eve of the vote. With almost all the votes counted by 05 March 2011, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party headed to win 33 seats, while its partner, the Pro Patria and Res Republica Union, is set to win 23 seats. That gave their coalition a 56-seat majority - a gain of six seats. The main opposition Center Party won 26 seats and the Social Democrats won 19 seats. Six other parties failed to win any seats. Voters rewarded Mr. Ansip's government for pulling Estonia out of a deep recession without turning to the European Union or International Monetary Fund for help.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves took the oath for his second five-year term in office, after an overwhelming victory in August. Mr. Ilves was sworn in 09 October 2011 before the 101-seat parliament, where 73 of the lawmakers voted for his re-election. His rival, European Party Deputy Indrek Tarand, received 25 votes, while three votes were discarded. The 57-year-old Ilves was educated in the United States. He is Estonia's third president since the country reclaimed its independence from Russia in 1991. Initially elected in 2006, Mr. Ilves became the first presidential candidate to claim the required two-thirds majority in parliament in the August election. In the past, all presidential elections have been decided by the electoral college after lawmakers failed to give any candidate the necessary majority.

On 04 March 2014, with the situation in Ukraine growing on NATO's borders, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip announced he was stepping down. The resignation was the first step in a leadership reshuffle in the Reform Party. European Union Commissioner and founder of the party Siim Kallas was expected to take his place and lead the party into the 2015 parliamentary elections. Ansip had been tipped to become Estonia's next EU commissioner after Kallas' term ended in the second half of 2014.

To some the resignation seemed less like a noble gesture than abdication. Ansip's tone was festive and triumphal as he extolled his administration's achievements. Cynics might conclude - and have concluded - that it was a shrewdly timed internal calculation on the part of the Reform Party to a) ditch the exhausted Ansip brand with a year to go until elections. Siim Kallas, the Reform Party's candidate for prime minister, has bowed out, saying he will not form the next government because of what he called a smear campaign.

Defense Minister and IRL Chairman Urmas Reinsalu said Prime Minister Andrus Ansip should delay his and the government's resignation until the situation in Ukraine stabilizes. It is the Prime Minister's decision, but as the current Defense Minister, I sincerely hope he thinks about the timing, as the scale of the crisis, in the context of the world's security, should be reason enough.

On 17 March 2014, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves picked Taavi Rivas, the Reform Party's current and second choice for prime minister, to form the next government. Sven Mikser, the leader of the Social Dems, and Taavi Rivas, the Reform Party's number one following the resignation of Andrus Ansip and the exit of Siim Kallas, were called in to meet with Ilves in Kadriorg. These two parties had made the most progress in mutual talks and command a majority of the seats in the 101-member Parliament. The division of ministerial posts or inclusion of other coalition partners had not been decided. On 26 March 2014 Andrus Ansip spent his last day in charge of government of Estonia, thus totalling eight years, 11 months, and two weeks. In the afternoon, Taavi Rivas took the baton, at Toompea.

The new Defense Minister, Sven Mikser, first became Minister of Defense in 2002 when he was only 28 years old, is one of Estonia's leading foreign policy experts. In his second term in Parliament in 2008, Mikser was Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and was recently elected as a vice-president to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Mikser opined in 2007 that Moscow's "over-reaction" to the GOE's movement of the World War II-era Bronze Soldier monument had revealed the true colors of the Putin regime to a wider European audience.

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