On Sunday, just before midnight, the votes from Estonia’s parliamentary elections were counted and the result was clear. Unsurprisingly, the winner in all regions was the Reform Party (Reformierakond), who have been the leaders parliament for ten years already. Taavi Rõivas, the 35-year-old prime minister remains the youngest leader in European Union.
Considering the human rights aspect of this result, the choice of the Reform party is not too bad. It was one of the two biggest supporters of last years scandalous cohabitation act, which would allow same-sex couples to legally register their relationship, that way providing them a legal and financial security similar to marriage. In their program for the next four years they have stated, that they want to decrease discrimination and fight extremism and agitation of hatred.
Another thing this party stands out for is its strong pro-NATO stance. As the situation in the world is very unstable and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine goes unsolved, Estonia feels threatened by its big eastern neighbor. The alternative to Russians is NATO, which has promised us protection. However, promises like this are often easier to make than to fulfill.
One of the party´s main goals is to raise the standard for living for everyone. Its centre-right policies will however most likely continue to increase the gap between the rich and the poor, leaving the lowest class struggling. Moving towards the northern ideal and achieving the Scandinavian standard is a dream that, at least for now, will stay but a dream.
The thing that bothers me the most about the party’s victory, is that there are actually no other options. Even if the Centre Party (Keskerakond), their strongest rival, had won the election, it would have been impossible for them to form a coalition, after all other parties eliminated any chance of cooperating with them. The Centre party is allegedly pro-Kremlin, not to say pro-Putin. I, perhaps naively, am sure that these accusations are mostly propaganda or at least strongly overblown to keep the Reform party on top.
Ed. note: (No party gained a majority, though Reform, who had the highest percentage, now leads the new coalition government)
As about a quarter of people living in Estonia are Russians, it might be good to actually consider them as a part of our people every once in a while. They form a part of our people, who are almost completely left out of the election programs. Probably because if they have the grey passport of a foreigner, they cannot vote anyway.
The other smaller parties are not considered a real option by most of the public. For example the money they are able to use for campaigning is a lot smaller compared to the two main rivals. It is clear, that even though people don´t choose who to vote for only by which party gives them more free gifts, it does leave an impression – you will remember a face, a name or a number.
And this leaves us with only one choice – the Reform Party. The way I see it, it is difficult to call an election democratic and free, if you have only one real option to consider. People have openly said, that they chose the winning party only because they didn´t want the Centre Party to win, without considering any of the programs or candidates more closely.
Already now, just a few days after the election, there have been predictions that the coalition will not last until the next election. It is clear, that something in the way the Estonian political structure works, must change. Until it does, people will be satisfied that for the next four years, they don´t have to worry themselves with all the difficult political matters. All they need to wait now, is for their salaries to magically rise to the level of Scandinavian welfare states.
Talvike Mändla is an Estonian graduate with a degree in Special Education. She is currently volunteering on a one-year placement in Zugdidi, Georgia. You can read more of here work on her blog.