Reform Party won Parliamentary elections in Estonia

Parliamentary elections on 1st March won Reform Party who got 30 seats (27.7% of all votes) out of 101 in Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu). Second position got Centre Party, who got 27 seats. Although Centre Party got around 25% votes, the win was quite narrow, as three persons won 1/3 and Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Party, alone 18% of all votes of the Party.

What is different this time, is that two additional political parties (Estonian Free Party and Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) got into the Parliament as well. Thus, instead of four political parties from 2011 elections, Riigikogu will have six parties this time.

Estonian Reform Party (classical liberalism)      30 seats

Estonian Centre Party (centrism, social liberalism)    27

Social Democratic Party (social democracy)       15

Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (Christian democracy, national conservatism)   14

Estonian Free Party (national conservatism)    8

Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (national conservatism)    7

Participation rate was 64.2% (63.5% in 2011), whereas 19.6% voted through internet (15.4% in 2011).

President has promised to make a proposal to form government to the party who wins the elections. Previous coalition (since March 2014) consisted of Reform Party (PM is from Reform Party) and Social Democrats. Political platforms of all parties before elections were full on populism, but the real policy will be established through coalition negotiations. It’s too early to say how much Estonian economic policy will change and evaluate its impact. Reform Party and Social Democrats apparently will continue their cooperation, but there have to be a third party as well to form a coalition. I do not expect that this party can be a substantial game changer and will bring about principle changes in current economic policy.

It is important to note that all political parties have declared that they will not form a coalition with Centre Party, primarily due to its leader’s, Edgar Savisaar, unacceptable views on Russia and the Party’s alleged agreement with United Russia (in Russian, Edinaja Rossija), the party in power.

Edgar Savisaar unveils his plan to restart Estonian economy

Edgar Savisaar, chairman of Estonia’s largest opposition party, writes in Äripäev that he has an economic plan that will make Estonia’s economy to grow 2 to 3 times faster than the EU average.

If we want to show that we are not a dying-out, sad and angry small country, but a terrific country that has open society, dynamic business climate and is innovative, the first step is to remove the Reform Party from power, he writes.

Read more from BBN

ex-PM proposes a radical reform plan

Mart Laar, ex-PM and current supervisory board chairman of Estonian central bank, has come up with his own ideas of what kind of reforms Estonia needs, writes Äripäev.

Laar who said at the end of last year that he was going to unveil his reform proposals at the start of 2015 and that it was time for radical changes.

Read the key points of Mart Laar’s economic reform plan from BBN.

980,000 citizens have right to vote in parliament elections

According to the population register as on Nov. 1 there were 979,910 citizens with a right to vote in Estonia’s 2015 parliamentary elections which is about 15,000 people more than the number of people that had voting rights during the 2011 parliamentary elections.

The Interior Ministry forwarded data of the population register to the National Electoral Committee for the division of mandates for the parliamentary elections taking place on March 1, 2015, spokespeople for the ministry said.

The biggest number of citizens with the right to vote live in Tallinn — a total of 264,844 individuals. Of counties, the biggest number of citizens with voting rights are registered in Harju County, 101,291, without taking into account Tallinn residents.

In addition, Estonian citizens living permanently abroad who have the right to vote total 76,488.

During the 2011 parliamentary elections before the division of mandates citizens with the right to vote totalled 964,095, including 49,650 living abroad.

Mandates in Estonian elections are divided in accordance with the number of eligible voters in the district on the first day of the month when the elections were called. The president formally announced the parliamentary election of March 1, 2015 on Wednesday.

Source: BNS / Estonian Review

Reform Party names Maris Lauri as new finance minister

The Reform Party has put forward their new candidate for the position of the finance minister to replace Jürgen Ligi, who resigned on Saturday following a Facebook rant last week at Minister of Education Jevgeni Ossinovski. The position will be filled by the financial analyst Maris Lauri, currently the economic adviser to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

“The first things I will have to do as a Finance Minister are the to see that the 2015 budget passes the readings at the Parliament, take the necessary steps to make sure that the EU structural funds are deployed as soon as possible, and bring in regulations for payday loans,” Lauri said.

She added that the finance ministers of the EU member states will meet next week in Brussels, so she does not have much time to settle in but has to tackle the job head-on.

Lauri is known to the Estonian public as a the head economist of Swedbank. She has been working as the adviser for the Prime Minister since last spring and as such has been involved in the budgeting process. She has previously also worked for the Bank of Estonia and lectured at the universities.

Lauri is the member of Enterprise Estonia and the head of its internal audit unit. She holds a MSc in Economics from the University of Tartu.

Lauri joined the Reform Party last week but announced her decision only on Monday, saying that she wishes to run for the parliament as it needs to include more specialists.

Lauri was chosen over several other potential candidates, including previous Finance Minister Aivar Sõerd, but the Prime Minister said the decision was consensual.

“In a situation where the new finance minister won’t have time to settle in, it has to be someone who is already at home in the field. As the head economist of Swedbank, Lauri has exceptional inside knowledge of the area and for the past seven months as my economic adviser, she has gained first hand experience in the processes of state financing,” Rõivas said.

Lauri said she has more private sector experience that previous minister Jürgen Ligi and she will be much more subtle in her manners. But her financial principles are much the same as her predecessor’s – a balanced state budget, reduction of the tax burden and a simple taxation system.

Lauri’s candidacy has been welcomed by other parliamentary parties, who hold her in high regard as an economic specialist.

Jüri Ratas of the Center Party faction said that Lauri’s experience in the private sector is a good asset. “I think that a candidate who comes from outside the circle of politicians and politics, who has previously been an analyst in the private sector and is now working for the Prime Minister, can bring new outlooks to the state financing as well,” he said.

IRL’s Urmas Reinsalu said Lauri was a logical choice for the Reform Party. “I think it was reasonable, considering the tensions they have, to bring in a specialist instead of another politician and Maris Lauri is no doubt an eligible person,” he said, adding that the opposition will not work against her.

If the president approves Lauri’s candidacy for the position, the current government will have six female ministers in office. This would be a new record for Estonia.

Source: ERR News

Estonia’s president about Russia’s threat

Raised in New Jersey, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves does not mince words when it comes to the situation in Ukraine and the threat Russia poses to his country and the region. He took time last week to speak with The Post’s Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:

Q. What do you think of the situation in Ukraine?

A. The issue is not just Ukraine — it is the entire post-World War II order, which is under question. The Helsinki Final Act forbade border changes through aggression and says explicitly that no such change in borders would be recognized.

[This] was already annulled by the [Russian] attack on Georgia in 2008. Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin and President [Dmitry] Medvedev said they did it because Georgia wanted to join NATO. No one heard the alarm.

Now it is Ukraine, where even more egregiously, the casus belli is that Ukraine wanted to have an association agreement with the European Union. [Such an agreement] really doesn’t give you very much.

Read more from The Washington Post

Study of politician’s bank account shows close ties to businesses

A study of a bank account owned by convicted former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and his wife Anne Reiljan shows how important business is in politics in Estonia, writes Äripäev in its investigative journalism report.

Proof of this is Villu Reiljan’s 50th birthday that he celebrated in May 2003. The total amount of money paid to his special-purpose birthday bank account by well-wishers was 220,000 kroons or over 14,000 euros. Cash donations may have amounted to as similar amount.

Read more from BBN

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