Election Briefs: Pensioner Protesters Storm Toompea, First-Day Voting Stats Released
In another event thrusting the election into full swing, thousands of demonstrators yesterday surrounded Toompea, the Old Town hilltop where the Parliament and Cabinet buildings sit, to shout slogans and wave posters conveying anti-coalition messages.
Gathering in the late afternoon, the majority of those present were Russian-speaking pensioners who called for Prime Minister Andrus Ansip to step down and expressed general dissatisfaction with the Estonian government, reported Postimees, which put the crowd estimate in the thousands. As dusk fell, ERR News estimated the crowd was around 500 people. At 18:30, organizers declared the demonstration over and many headed for the lower town, where the city held an autumn festival with fireworks.
The Center Party, in power in Tallinn and in the opposition on the national level, had rallied those in attendance, who were promised free portable radios decorated with party insignia as gifts. Not everyone got one and there was a minor scuffle due to the short supply.
In another instance of attempted event-sabotage, supporters of the rival party IRL were present with a minivan that said "Kross Café," named after their election frontman, Eerik-Niiles Kross. A loudspeaker from the van transmitted its own messages, which were cut off by police officers, apparently in an effort to prevent direct confrontations between supporters of different factions.
Some of the members of the pro-Kremlin extremist group Nightwatch were present, a fact noted beforehand by Kross.
Prior to the event, Kross had expressed concern in the media that the protest was not just political but inherently anti-Estonian, inciting sentiments reminiscent of the 2007 riots and interethnic tension.
Twenty-four hours after advance voting and e-voting kicked off in the municipal elections, around 26,000 people had cast their votes, reported uudised.err.ee.
The majority of that figure came from e-voting. Yesterday evening, the number of votes cast neared 2,500 in Tallinn and 1,000 in Tartu.
With over 200 city council races under way, the most active voting district was Lasnamäe, which has a high ethnic Russian population and is considered a stronghold of the incumbent mayor of Tallinn, Edgar Savisaar.
E-voting concludes on October 16. Election day is October 20.
Correction: This story initially incorrectly reported that, on the first day of the elections, advance voting and e-voting combined amounted to 21,896 votes. This figure actually accounted for the e-votes alone. Paper ballots in advance voting added another 4,215 votes.