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Estonia - Election 2015

The 01 March 2015 Parliament elections were once again characterized by a collective opposition to the Center Party. The Reform Party, which has been the ruling party for eight years - the last 11 months under 35-year-old Prime Minister Taavi Rivas - took 27.7 percent of the vote. It will get 30 seats. The Center Party, which was painted as a "pro-Russia party" by some in the charged atmosphere of the changed security environment, came in second with 24.8 percent of the vote and 27 seats.

Reform Party, which won the March 1 election, ruled out any cooperation with the Center Party, which it saw as pro-Kremlin. Other parties were less quick to denounce the Center Party as a possible coalition partner, but all did say they would not work with the Center Party, which counts on the support of Russian-speakers. The coalition would have 30 MPs from the Reform Party, 15 from the Social Democrats, 14 from IRL and 8 from the Free Party. The combined figure is 67, just enough to push through its own presidential candidate in 2016, when Toomas Hendrik Ilves's term ends.

On October 2016 Estonia voted for its first female president, ending a month-long political stalemate. Kersti Kaljulaid, 46, was confirmed in a 81-0 vote in Estonia's 101-seat parliament on October 2016 after emerging last week as a surprise candidate following unsuccessful bids by four other contenders. The choice of Kaljulaid, a member of the European Court of Auditors, was a surprise as she is not a household name. Kaljulaid took over from Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was a vocal critic of Russia and the country's president for 10 years. She promised to be president for all Estonians and regularly discuss issues with the ethnic Russian minority in the nation of 1.3 million people. The role of president is a largely ceremonial post, though the president can veto draft law during a final legislative phase.

Estonia's governing coalition collapsed 07 November 2016 after the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Pro-Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) called on Prime Minister Taavi Roivas to resign amid coalition in-fighting. Roivas is pro-NATO. Junior coalition partners in Estonia called on the prime minister to resign. The opposition parties called for a no confidence vote. Roivas' center-right RE, along with the SDE and IRL control 59 of the 101 seats in Estonian parliament after the 2015 election. Roivas had been under fire over administrative reforms, economic and social policy, and the appointment of party members to state-owned companies.

The SDE and IRL were purusing coalition talks with the Center Party, the main opposition and second-largest party in Estonia. The Center Party commanded 27 seats and was particularly popular with the Baltic state's ethnic Russian minority which makes up a quarter of the population. The Center Party selected Juri Ratas on 05 November 2016, replacing Edgar Savisaar amid party infighting. Savisaar's perceived ties to Russia scared off potential coalition partners, but Ratas' selection "opened the floodgates for the Center Party to form a new government.

Estonia's parliament on 24 November 2016 swore in a new coalition government led by Juri Ratas, whose Center Party has traditionally garnered support from the Baltic country's Russian speaking minority. The Center Party shared power with the left-leaning Social Democrats and the conservative IRL party, with each party getting 5 cabinet posts. The three party coalition is against the EU's migration quota plan.

Estonia reaffirmed its commitment to the West even amid some concern that the Center Party gets support from the country's Russian-speaking minority and is close to Moscow. "Estonia is an open and pro-western democratic country and walks firmly on the road that we have chosen almost 30 years ago," President Kersti Kaljulaid said in statement on Tuesday. She added "that Estonia is a faithful NATO ally and a demanding and active partner in the EU."

Incoming Prime Minister Juri Ratass, a critic of Russian foreign policy, said his party had frozen a 2004 cooperation agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. He also confirmed that the EU and NATO are "the most important guarantee of security and welfare" in the country. He listed the country's largest challenges as demographic development, reviving a stagnating economy, fighting inequality and security.

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