Estonia Goes to Polls to Choose Its 6 Members of European Parliament (1)
Estonia - minus those voters who already voted in the country's pioneering electronic system or used the advance voting option - goes to the polls today, May 25, to elect the country's European Parliament deputies for the next five years.
The four parties represented in national Parliament and one independent candidate are expected to split five spots, with the sixth seat up for grabs.
The latest of the two most representative opinion polls, conducted by major market research firms, indicated that the opposition Center Party holds a slight edge over the two ruling parties Reform and the Social Democrats, with national conservative IRL fourth with about a week to go.
As expected in a nation that is a relatively new member and net recipient of EU funding, sentiment among the major parties is uniformly pro-EU, with even the opposition Center Party - which styles itself a champion of the underclass and has a strong Russian-speaker base - having emerged recently as a proponent of outright "Eurofederalism."
Some grumbling about obligations to bail out southern European countries is heard from the wings from the Conservative People's Party, which is billed as Estonia's, albeit mild, answer to Britain's UKIP. It is not expected to poll anywhere close to a mandate.
Greens-European Free Alliance MEP Indrek Tarand, a massively popular independent candidate in Estonia, is likely to win a second term, even if support will fall short of the over 25 percent of the popular vote he received in 2009.
Polls are open from 9:00-20:00 Sunday, and results are expected to start coming in around midnight Estonian time and on into early Monday morning.
For full coverage, including any developments before polls close, stay tuned to ERR News's election page.
Senior Statesmen, 'Estonia's Farage' Shine in Debate
The last ETV candidates' debate was held on Saturday night and featured the top candidate for each of the four parties in parliament, and four candidates from other registered parties.
It was a better organized affair than the chaotic independent candidates' debate two nights before.
This time it was the most senior politicians' turn to shine, as picked by ERR's panel of experts: incumbent MEP Tunne Kelam (IRL) and Marju Lauristin (Social Dems) performed well.
Former PM Andrus Ansip, the top Reform Party candidate, was also praised, although some commentators saw him as relying too much on pre-scripted talking points.
Martin Helme (Conservative People's Party) was also seen by some as the evening's best rhetorician and, in light of the United Kingdom Independence Party's performance in the British vote and the general Euroskeptic trend, "Estonia's future [Nigel] Farage."
In the end, the panel of experts said that Kelam won the debate with a score of 4.7, Lauristin and Helme tied for second with 4.0, and Ansip received a 3.8.
While two septuagenarians shined, the slightly younger Edgar Savisaar (Center Party), who did not appear in previous debates, was seen as off-message and evasive. His health raised concerns, as at one point a chair had to be brought to him in ETV's Studio 4. Savisaar, the mayor of Tallinn, has said he will not take up a seat in the EP if elected.