Estonia’s Reform Party and its candidate, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, won first place in parliamentary elections on Sunday, beating out their main rival, the far right, which had campaigned against more arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Estonia is one of Russia’s most staunch neighbors in the face of the Kremlin’s expansionism. With a population of 1.3 million, Kallas’ election victory underpins the course to embrace a green energy-based policy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine. In the early 2000s, it was one of the first countries in the world to orient public administration to new technologies. Yesterday, 51% of the votes were cast online, including that of the prime minister.

The far-right party EKRE came in second, with 16.1%, against 31% for Kallas’s liberal group. EKRE had proposed to stop accepting new Ukrainian war refugees. They also criticized Kallas’s policy of sending weapons to Ukraine, because they say it neglects the Baltic nation’s own defense needs. Estonia is the European country that provides the most arms to Ukraine in relation to its economic weight: its military assistance to Ukraine amounts to more than 1% of GDP. Many Estonians have assumed during these twelve months that if Russia continues its expansionism to the west they are the next to be massacred.

Former MEP, daughter of a former prime minister and fond of playing drums, since 2021 she is the first woman to hold the head of government of her country, which, however, has already had a woman as head of state: Kersti Kaljulaid. Now Kallas, 45, will once again have to form a coalition with one or more of the parties in the Baltic state’s 101-seat parliament. Last year Russian internet propaganda was spreading the narrative that she would have to resign because of popular rejection of her support for Ukraine. The opposite has happened.

Now the primary objective is to consolidate the pro-European course of the country. Estonia is a member of the EU and NATO, and over the past year has led first in warnings against an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, and then in international calls for more military aid to support Kiev.

“This is much better than we expected,” Kallas said of the result last night. “We have ruled out a coalition with EKRE and I keep my word,” he added. His party, Reforma, is a center-right liberal formation that attracts businessmen and young professionals. Kallas has promised to increase military spending to at least 3% of GDP and cut corporate taxes, and he wants to pass a law legalizing same-sex civil unions. If the results are confirmed, the Europeanist formation will obtain 37 seats, three more than four years ago.

True to the ‘Trumpist’ style that he has sported in recent years, EKRE leader Martin Helme suggested during election night that Reforma “stole” the elections. “They robbed us of our deserved victory,” he lamented after confirming that he lost two seats. His great electoral trump card was to drastically reduce energy bills in homes and businesses. Discontent over energy prices was precisely one of the Kremlin’s hopes to decimate European strength in 2023.

In third place is the center-left formation of the Center Party, which has been part of the government coalition since the 2019 elections, but which came out after a crisis in the Executive, which included Isamaa and the SDE.

Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Economic and social progress since then is clear, but today it suffers from an inflation rate of 18.6%, one of the highest in Europe. The country has a large Russian-speaking minority concentrated mainly in towns near the border, such as Narva. There, discontent with the government’s educational or historical memory policy has remained in the background before the fear of a new escalation by Vladimir Putin.

The pain that Ukraine has faced in defending its sovereignty in the face of Moscow’s aggressive policy has been metabolized by many Estonians as an appreciation of their firmness in the 1990s, when the Balts led a fragmentation of the USSR that in its initial phase In the end, it would be fostered by the ambitions of the Russian leader Boris Yeltsin himself, ending the USSR in collaboration with Belarus and Ukraine. “The Estonian experience reminds us that our first focus today must be how to help Ukraine free itself from the occupying forces, restore its territorial integrity and stop Russian aggression,” Kallas wrote in The Economist in April last year.

Ukraine today embodies the moral of a clairvoyant fable that the Balts have been recounting for decades. Kallas repeats that all the warning signs have been present in recent decades: imperial nostalgia for Moscow, the narrative of Russian victimhood, and the “Putin wars” in Chechnya, Georgia, Donbas and Crimea. That is why he points out that we are in a moment that defines an era.

In Tallinn they do not forget that, just before launching its troops against Kiev, Russia gave NATO an ultimatum to limit its deployment of troops and weapons and reverse the expansion to return it to the size it was in 1997. This last point conditions security from Estonia. This is why many Estonians perceived that the roars of Moscow in 2022 were calling their name.

Kallas’s warning appears to have garnered support in the country around his party and those who take a similar stance: “We can’t let him get away with it now. If that happens, his appetite will grow.”

Before this Sunday’s victory, analysts already predicted that a reissue of the current coalition with the Social Democratic party and the conservatives of the Isamaa or Homeland Party was likely. Both suffered moderate setbacks.

“The war continues and affects the whole of Europe, indeed the whole world. I don’t know when the war will end… but I know it will not end with a victory for Putin,” Kallas said during the campaign. For her, this war makes it clear why the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, after freeing themselves from Soviet occupation, quickly applied to join NATO.

The elections have meant the entry into the political scene of the liberals of Eesti 200, a party created in 2018. Eesti (or Estonia 200) strongly supports Estonia’s membership of NATO and the European Union and supports marriage between people of the same sex. He is a strong candidate to enter the coalition, where minor problems often overshadow important objectives.

Kallas speaks Finnish, Estonian, English, French and also Russian. He argues that his country is interested in helping kyiv. And that will remain the priority in 2023, until Russia “is disarmed.”

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