Estonia went to the polls on Sunday to elect city and municipality councils. Stay tuned to this live blog for links to the latest stories from ERR News and other Estonian media.
(This feed is no longer being updated as we return to our usual mix of coverage in Politics and other sections.)
Abdul Turay, a British citizen running for city council in Tallinn, received 516 votes. ERR News spoke with Turay after the election to get his comments.
Among ministers, Rein Lang, the minister of culture, received the least votes - just 29. Urmas Paet, the foreign minister, got the most, over 2,632.
Show's over. Until tomorrow, anyway. The final results were in at 01:34.
The National Electoral Committee recorded 625,468 people voting in the country of 1.3 million. Estonia held 215 local elections with 15,000 candidates on Sunday. Here is the breakdown of party results. Keep in mind that nearly a third of the country's voters voted not for political parties, but for citizens' elections coalitions - groups formed specifically for the purposes of the relevant local election.
Social Democratic Party
Conservative People's Party
Social Democratic Party
Conservative People's Party
Amid a cheering crowd of fellow party members, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar steps up for victory speech after another triumphant election. "We have won, we have won everywhere in Estonia," Savisaar said.
Every third person in Estonia and every second in Tallinn has voted for the Center Party, he said.
"This is the fourth time we have won the absolute trust of Tallinn [...] We have not just won the elections, we have made history," Savisaar said.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip expressed disappointment that votes had been wasted on election coalitions, thereby stealing votes from the other parties and allowing Savisaar to maintain power in Tallinn.
Edgar Savisaar has, as a candidate, collected nearly as many votes as the second most popular party, IRL, collected in total.
The single most dramatic change in the races for the councils in major cities and towns took place in Narva, a Center Party bastion, where the Social Democrats (below the 5 percent threshold in 2009) picked up around a third of the 31 seats.
Apart from the election coalitions, the situation in Tartu is nearly identical to the last city council - Reform and IRL have 14 and 11 seats, respectively; Center will pick up 10 and the Social Democrats 9 (+/-1 in all cases). Reform has been in power for 16 years in the city. More in full story coming up.
Two election coalitions (i.e. legal entities that are not parties) will be picking up seats in Tartu, and two other ones in Rakvere. Election coalitions came in first in Rapla, Pärnu, Jõhvi and Hiiu municipality, among the more prominent races.
Speaking to ETV, Parliament Speaker Ene Ergma said: "E-voting is our future and it is not the devil. [Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar] needs to get with the times."
Meanwhile, a Tallinn representative, Mihhail Korb, continued the Center Party's official line on e-voting, saying it is not as secure using as paper ballots. Commentators have pointed out that this attitude - the party has launched numerous assaults against e-voting - may have damaged the Center Party's results (which are currently showing a trend of being compensated by paper ballots).
What the facts show is that Center party's e-voting results were indeed meager this time around, garnering 9.3 percent in Estonia and 13.1 percent in Tallinn.
Apropos of the Russian minority vote discussed in the last post, statistics from an election seminar held yesterday for foreign observers: the Center Party has the most native Russian-speaking voters at 34.4 percent. Second is not the Social Democrats, as some might expect, but IRL with 5.8 percent. The Social Dems are third with 4.3 percent.
IRL's Tallinn mayoral candidate Eerik-Niiles Kross said he believed the party had benefited from Russian-speaking votes in the capital. "I've talked to and met many congenial Russian voters who have discovered that there is a political force there for them who is not the Center Party or Reform Party. I think that we have quite a number of Russian voters," he told ETV.
The Center Party was dominating the Tallinn results with more than half of precincts in at last check, but Kross's active campaign at least changed the balance of power between IRL and Reform. He currently has around 6,000 votes to Savisaar's 17,000. He got more than twice as many e-votes as Savisaar. Kross interestingly was originally supposed to run for Pärnu mayor.
Speaking to ERR radio, political commentator Agu Uudelepp said it is appearing, at this point in the ballot counting process, that the opposition parties have failed to seize Tallinn from incumbent mayor Edgar Savisaar.
Meanwhile, Free Tallinn Citizen, an alternative for those who do not support any party, is showing a trend of decline as results come in, Uudelepp said.
But the biggest disappointment is the Social Democrats', he said.
"One thing is clear: their result is not what was expected. If you look at how they were the most popular in the summer, there was a mood that a new force was anticipated, but now it is clear that Tallinn will not be taken and it is doubtful that Toompea can be taken that way if the Social Dems do not first decide on a most pressing matter of principle - they need to be braver, they need to be ready for conflict," Uudelepp said, adding that the results spells bad fortune for future elections as well.
Eighty percent of precincts nationwide have reported and the Center Party has the most votes, nipping IRL and presumably widening its lead as the last precincts report, with Reform Party third and Social Democrats fourth. Keep in mind again we're talking about 215 separate local councils and a significant amount of variation between them. We're mainly waiting for city precincts to report at this point - Tartu's first precinct only just now reported.
All four precincts in Põlva, a southern country town of some 6,000 people, have reported and IRL appears to have beat the Center Party. The city of Põlva recently merged with the surrounding municipality, changing the balance of power.
As results continue to trickle in, one of the observers at ERR News election HQ noted that the Conservative People's Party is looking at the interesting distinction of getting fewer votes than it has members. Some may not recall that it is what is left of Arnold Rüütel and Villu Reiljan's People's Union Party, once the party of the nation's president and even a minority coalition partner in the national govenment in the early 1990s.
Three more precincts report in Tallinn - IRL's figure drops several percentage points this time, to 33 something. Was it the Lasnamäe district?
The first precincts are reporting in Tallinn (3 of 97 by this count) and IRL's percentage has dropped half a percentage point since only the e-votes were counted. Some smaller cities like Haapsalu will be finished reporting soon.
National turnout as clocked by the election commission at 20:00 was 57.68 percent. So it is unlikely to top the 2009 turnout, 60.57 percent. Turnout in Tallinn was lower; Tartu was about the same.
Alo Heinsalu made an announcement urging patience to anyone spoiled by the instant results from e-voting, saying that while e-vote counting was streamlined, the tabulation of the paper ballots will take a few hours.
How long will the disparity (in party preference) between paper balloting and e-voting last? ETV commentator doesn't put a year on it but says:
"It will take place as long as we can predict turnout in e-voting among particular demographics. As soon as we can't predict it anymore, then it is likely that the e-voting result will be the same as the conventional totals."
First preliminary e-voting results! (paper ballots not included)
Nationwide results by party (election coalitions not included)
Nationwide count: 34,743
Nationwide percentage: 25.9%
Tallinn count: 17,063
Tallinn percentage: 35.7%
Nationwide count: 28,756
Nationwide percentage: 21.5%
Tallinn count: 10,413
Tallinn percentage: 21.8%
Social Democratic Party
Nationwide count: 19,790
Nationwide percentage: 14.8%
Tallinn count: 7,907
Tallinn percentage: 16.5%
Nationwide count: 12,442
Nationwide percentage: 9.3%
Tallinn count: 6,256
Tallinn percentage: 13.1%
Conservative People's Party
Tallinn count: 1 763
Tallinn percentage: 3,6%
Total e-votes: 133,661
E-votes in Tallinn: 47,745
ERR News full story
Some more photos:
Just one hour until polls close. Meanwhile, public counting of e-votes is now under way in the government castle conference hall on Toompea hill. ERR News has colleagues inside the hall who will learn the result first, but as polls are still open, no one will be allowed out of the room, nor does anyone there have communication devices or ways to signal from any windows, so we will learn the outcome at 20:00 along with everyone else.
Updated story with source from Interpol on the status of the Russian federation warrant for Eerik-Niiles Kross.
Here is an excerpt from a Facebook post today by chess champion and Russian political opposition leader Garry Kasparov:
PUTIN STICKS A DIRTY HAND INTO TALLINN ELECTION TO HELP A KREMLIN CRONY
[…] Saturday, Putin's long arm reached into neighboring Estonian elections with some help from a new law enforcement ally, Interpol.
The opposition candidate for the mayor of Tallinn, Eerik-Niiles Kross, has long been subjected to rumors and accusations originating in the Kremlin and his staunch opposition to Putin's attempts to drag Estonia back into Russia's orbit have turned his run for mayor into a Kremlin issue. Now Interpol has posted the KGB's slanderous charges ONE DAY BEFORE SUNDAY'S ELECTION, in a clear attempt to interfere in the very close race. Kross's opponent is the incumbent and a Kremlin stooge who immediately used the Interpol posting to attack Kross's coalition party.
It is pathetic for an international law enforcement agency to function as a hand of Putin in Europe. Russia is a police state with no rule of law or judicial independence and yet Interpol is a willing Putin partner in slandering a respected businessman and candidate on the eve of an important election. Or will they say this timing is a coincidence?
By the way, what is it with Putin and pirates? [...]
To document just how quiet the elections day mood has been in Tallinn, ERR News snapped a few photos.
It's been pretty quiet out there, with only a few isolated complaints coming in to police in Ida-Viru County - six of them, according to uudised.err.ee.
To wit, one man was photographing his ballot in Sillamäe. Someone else in the same town was reportedly asking people who hadn't voted yet. In Kohtla-Järve, a resident called in about a poster of a candidate in a stairwell, and two people were allegedly in a voting booth simultaneously in Kohtla-Järve.
Political agitation is not permitted on Election Day under a (still-debated) Estonian law.
As of noon, 32.47 percent of the eligible population had voted, either in advance voting, Internet voting or at polls today. The comparable figure for 2009 was 32.10 percent.
Sustainability of Tallinn public transport was in the spotlight at the last mayor candidates' debate on ETV Saturday night. Full story
Estonia plans to lodge a protest at the Interpol general assembly next week, Interior MInister Ken-Marti Vaher told uudised.err.ee. It will be argued that Russia's warrant for Kross (see previous posts) has a political motive.
A senior Estonian police official says the wanted ad for Kross's arrest (see previous posts) was cleared by an independent committee with Interpol. Full story.
Apparently - this from uudised.err.ee and interviews with Kross himself - this is the first time a Kross wanted notice has appeared on Interpol. Not that by itself would necessarily mean that the Russian case has merit (a general assumption, at least in Estonia and its allies, is that it is political and Kross may not even have been remotely connected to the Arctic Sea ship incident), but still, important to note. Still waiting to hear comment from the organization.
In a carefully worded statement, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reform) also made remarks on the Kross case, saying that it was "unacceptable to politicize a criminal investigation." He added that Estonian Chief State Prosecutor Heili Sepp said evidence gathered did not provide a basis to suspect Kross of involvement in the Russian case. He said Russian prosecutors would have to work closer with Estonian if answers to unresolved questions are to be found.
On the eve of local elections, Moscow has posted an Interpol wanted ad for IRL's Tallinn mayoral candidate Eerik-Niiles Kross. Initial reports suggested such a notice has been taken down several times before by Interpol, which instructed its members on June 21 to disregard Russia's requests on the matter. Russia is said to be upset about the role of Kross, a diplomat and security expert, as an adviser to Georgia, which was invaded by Russia in August 2008, and says it wants to question Kross over an incident in which a ship was allegedly hijacked.
Prominent IRL member, politician Marko Mihkelson said on his Facebook page today: "I don't remember such a serious interference by Moscow in Estonian elections." In his own public status posted half an hour ago, Kross also referred to Interpol's "disregard order" and said Russia was worried that he was threatening the Center Party's position in Tallinn.
ERR News's story here.
This just out: apparently the going rate for a vote is 30 euros, sources told uudised.err.ee. No other details have emerged yet on the four candidates detained yesterday under suspicion of vote buying.
Last Hall of Shame of unethical campaign tactics is published.
For those who prefer their numerical data in the form of easy to read graphs (often a deficit commodity), we tried to oblige, in this look at the status of the major races 48 hours before Election Day.
A few potential bad apples today, from a pool of 15,000 candidates.
Buses and bridges were the topics of the day in Wednesday's televised debate between candidates for mayor of Tartu. The main theme for the Pärnu debate was jobs; in the case of Narva, corruption.
Last monthly poll before Sunday's vote shows IRL siphoning support away from Reform, but not from its archirival Center. Theme in Tallinn continues to be a 50-50 split between the Center Party vs The Rest.
The judo association is apparently not at all happy with IRL mayoral candidate Eerik-Niiles Kross, who has been president of the association for a year. The group had appointed Kross in the hope that he would be successful in raising much-needed funds, but finances continue to be meager and the association couldn't afford to send its team to the Rio de Janeiro World Championships this year, leaving top gun Martin Padar to make the trip at his own expense.
Kross responded, saying that the association has remained debt-free and plans have been fulfilled.
Postimees journalist Argo Ideon, a veteran political analyst, lamented the fact that Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (in the place of Randpere) had not stepped up to try to take the throne from Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar. Ideon said Ansip would have been a serious challenger. (Postimees has scolded ERR News for our borderline excessive quoting of Ideon's interview with Savisaar on Saturday, so instead we refer readers to the original for possible translation crowdsourcing.)
In sports news, Estonia's tennis ace Kaia Kanepi (WTA 29), who lost to Australia's Samantha Stosur in Moscow this morning, has endorsed the Reform Party's candidate for mayor of Tallinn, Valdo Randpere, who is also her former manager. "He is a strong economic person and Tallinn needs one of those. I wanthim to win the elections since he is a big tennis fan," she was reported saying by Delfi.
Our weekly cartoon:
Thinking about which smartphone to buy? Or perhaps whom to vote for? Check out our buyer's guide.
Last chance to vote online!
Estonia's Russian-speaking media analyze local elections, and it's all about the Center Party.
Over 121,000 people have fulfilled their democratic responsibility, halfway through the advance voting period and approaching the final day of e-voting.
ERR News's party election profiles in a nutshell.
Interview with Expert
Rein Toomla is interviewed by our staff about what's at stake and the implications of the Oct. 20 vote.
Perennially beset by accusations, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar was given a chance to set the record straight in a lengthy interview on Postimees (translated excerpts here).
Here's a snippet from a feature piece by Postimees journalist Mikk Salu today:
"He opens the Raua street sauna, then a playground for dogs, a hundred-meter stretch of road (on three occasions, in case some photographer forgets to come the first time); for half an hour he sets up a temporary ice skating rink costing tens of thousands of euros at a construction site to open the skating season; he opens the Ülemiste junction, in passing a new bus or two, a trash can; and if need be, he will open autumn itself in Tallinn.
How ever does he manage? Yesterday was especially crazy, with one ceremony and performance after another. After all, we have all heard stories of heart attacks and micro heart attacks, falling asleep at meetings, pills, injections, a defibrillator in the trunk of the black Mercedes. But following on the heels of Savisaar at Center Party events, listening and seeing him, it all seems to suit Savisaar.
It's precisely what makes Savisaar tick, it wakes him up - events, the public, cameras and ribbons. Older people, who remember the times of Rahvarinne, say Savisaar was already then a lousy politician, but in campaigns he was invincible."
If you haven't yet seen it, here is the Tallinn mayor's new hit single. He performed it yesterday at the city's autumn festival.
In an impressive show of organizing capacity, the Center Party managed to draw thousands in a demonstration encircling Toompea yesterday.
In a show of support for Estonia's e-voting system, the president's public relations department issued photos of the official casting his ballot online yesterday.
A cheeky Internet campaign that uses semi-nude women to highlight Tallinn's problems was revealed today to be part of Valdo Randpere's bid to become mayor.
With over 200 races taking place during the municipal elections, the cream of the crop will be attaining power in Tallinn. Will anyone be successful in upsetting Edgar Savisaar, the mayor of Tallinn for the better part of the last decade?
The tag of “only a holiday resort” was discussed at a televised debate between candidates running for local office in Pärnu, with all agreeing that the city needed more highly paid non-seasonal jobs.
With 10 days to go before the main event, e-voters and advance voters took to polls virtual and physical today.
E-voting wraps up on October 16, this year featuring a mobile-based verification system for the first time. Known as an Estonian success story, albeit a controversial one, e-voting has been around since 2005. In the 2011 general elections, 24.3 percent of the votes cast were done so by e-vote.
The contrast between two national conservative parties was the topic of a panel discussion on ETV last night. The panel featured Jekaterina Taklaja, head of the ERR's Russian-language online news - the sister site of ERR News - and journalist and local official Allan Alaküla. Taklaja said that IRL (a national government coalition party) was "honest to its voters" and clear that it was out for Eesti asi, or the Estonian cause - something that Russians in Tallinn's Lasnamäe district assumed had nothing to do with them. While agreeing with Taklaja's assessment, Alaküla noted that IRL was at least willing to talk to Russian voters about the Estonian cause. That attitude, he said, contrasts with that of the Conservative People's Party (a more fringe group).
"The Conservatives say 'Russians out of the public sector' and better that there be no Russians at all in Tallinn, on one extreme. The other is IRL and Kross who say that there have to be three local languages, with Russian being one of them."
For other parties, language is not an issue that figures prominently, he said.
ERR News Election FAQ
Steve Roman has put up a basic guide to the elections to explain the process to expats and readers outside the country.
This week, the Supreme Court declined to review complaints by two convicts currently behind bars who were trying to register as candidates. The cases were very different - Raivo Paala is a businessman convicted of tax evasion who is actually due to be released tomorrow, while Romeo Kalda was originally a death row inmate whose sentence was commuted to life.
The Center Party decided today to eject 70 party members for running for election coalitions or other parties. Among them is Mart Viisitamm, who is involved in the concurrent party financing scandal. A party official said the actions went against the party statute and a decision from 2012 that members had to run as Center candidates.
The election coalition Free Citizen of Tallinn, one of four such groups running alongside the four main political parties, says IRL's campaign for its mayoral candidate Eerik-Niiles Kross may have stripped them of votes needed to muster a serious challenge to the Center Party's hegemony and appealed to undecideds to come out. The coalition consists of independent candidates, including former Tallinn mayor Hardo Aasmäe and electronic freedom activist Elver Loho.
Soc Dems name five issues they won't cave on in Tallinn, which would appear to make for tough talks with either Tallinn heavyweight the Center Party or the national ruling party, Reform.
The Social Democrats are blowing hot and cold about whether they might be part of the opposition in Tallinn city council. The party's mayoral candidate Andres Anvelt indicated on Friday that they would team up with Reform and IRL, while on Monday the party's chairman Sven Mikser said anything was possible, especially given the Reform Party's strong stance against free public transport.
Stats on the gender breakdown of candidates are out.
The latest Hall of Shame has been released by a network of NGOs, highlighting the top unethical methods being used ahead of the elections.
Many of the same patronage and corruption themes seen in Tallinn over the last year emerged in a debate in Narva, the predominantly Russian-speaking border city that has a political balance similar to that of the capital.
93 of 101 MPs and a number of cabinet ministers are running, but not expected to take their seats on local councils given their more prominent day jobs. Today, several election coalitions protested the practice of salting lists with heavy hitters.
A new e-voting app for Android devices has been tested to give voters additional assurance that their vote has been duly recorded in the correct column. Three days before that, the Center Party petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to look into the legality of e-voting, claiming the system lacked transparency.
More of a topic for general elections in 2015, but the latest edition of the online Voter Compass is out - "vote" on 35 parliamentary bills and see which MP is closest to you. Only in Estonian so far.
These local elections largely lack local platforms so far, according to ETV. Parties have not customized much beyond the national broad strokes.
Here's an on-demand link to the English-language debate between five mayoral candidates in Tallinn. Audio isn't great, but useful to get an idea of who's who.
A round-up of some local stories...and more IRL-Center feuding.
The ban on outdoor ads isn't stopping IRL impersonators. Some have already jumped to the conclusion that this is the Center Party's revenge for the drone stunt or the Savisaar attack ads, but the police are still investigating.
One month to go. Here are the last poll numbers.
ERR News cartoonist Toon Vugts's view of the recent campaign stunts.
The official candidates lists are in. Of the expats, John Slade is not running, Abdul Turay is. One prominent international name now figures on the list as well.
A new program on ETV gives candidates three-minute slots to air their views.
The campaign, and any drones, move inside - the time for outdoor ads is over as of today.
In the stunt of the season, IRL mayoral candidate Eerik-Niiles Kross makes an unscheduled "appearance" by operating a drone behind Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar during a TV segment. Video. A pundit weighed in on what Kross's motives were.
British journaliist and Estonian resident Abdul Turay has made headlines by announcing a bid for Tallinn city council on the Soc Dem ticket. ERR's interview with Turay.