Ruling Party Wins European Elections, Picking Up 2 of 6 Seats ({{commentsTotal}})

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The results of the European Parliament election have been announced, with ruling party Reform claiming two seats. The rest of the parties - the opposition Center Party and IRL and coalition partner Social Democrats - all won one seat, and independent Indrek Tarand was re-elected. In a surprise, an ethnically Russian politician, Yana Toom, will take the Center Party's one seat, ahead of all other politicians in her party, including longtime political heavyweight Edgar Savisaar.     

This live blog is now closed. Coverage continues in the Politics and European Parliament sections. 

Overlooked in the busy run-up to the election: e-zine Estonian World had interviews with some of the candidates. The one with Kaja Kallas, now elected with impressive vote totals, is here.  

Detailed results of e-voting are in. We'll probably do a separate story, as there are many charts. Highlights: candidates who "e-xcelled" the most (had the highest proportion of e-votes) were Krista Mulenok, Jevgeni Kristafovitš and Silver Meikar, with 45-55% "e", while votes for the Greens, IRL and Reform were 41-42% electronic.
(As for the pure e-agenda candidate, only around 10 of Lance Boxall's 60 votes were e-votes. Maybe not statistically significant.)

The Center Party had the lowest proportion of anybody - only 8.3 percent of their votes were given electronically.  

The Reform Party received 32 percent of all e-votes cast, IRL 19 percent and the Center Party 6 percent.

Chart with absolute numbers of e-vote per candidate:

Looking at regional numbers, the Reform Party won in 13 of 15 counties and in Tartu. It lost in Ida-Viru County, where Center got an outright majority and Social Dems and Reform only around 10 percent each; Tallinn, where Center had over 30 percent; and Võru County, where the Social Democrats won. 

Native English-speaking candidates: Abdul Turay got 864 votes, Lance Boxall 65. 

Most popular politician: as reported, Andrus Ansip with 45,037; least votes Kaarel Roosaare, 36.

If Andrus Ansip should become European Commissioner, Urmas Paet would take his place in the European Parliament, having the third-most votes in the Reform Party. Paet is considered an effective and veteran foreign minister, though, so he could pass; Igor Gräzin would then be next in line. 

The Conservative People's Party, Estonia's mild version of nationalist Euroskeptic parties, would not have crossed the 5-percent threshold for representation in Parliament, had this been a general election. They had not 6 percent, as originally reported by the Electoral Committee, but 4.03 percent. Still, for them a good result.

Two ways in which the pre-election polls didn't pan out: within IRL, Tunne Kelam handily beat Ene Ergma, getting 2.5 times more votes (polls had indicated they were neck and neck); and Jüri Ratas was not the second-most popular Center Party candidate after Edgar Savisaar, but only fourth.   
Savisaar just addressed supporters. Appeared in decent health (read: standing on his own feet), looked for silver linings. 

Reform's Andrus Ansip on radio: he is "disappointed" that Toom got in. The context for this and similar reactions is complex and not directly related to ethnicity: it relates to controversial comments Toom made last year (to the effect that the Estonian nation was dying out; many felt insulted) and the fact that an MEP in Latvia, Tatyana Zhdanok, is seen as obstructionist and anti-Latvian. Mihhail Stalnuhhin, a fellow member of Toom's faction, was the only Estonian MP to vote against a declaration condemning the invasion of Crimea. There are worldview differences here that are not shared with most of the West.

Comment from Tallinn University political scientist Tõnis Saarts: he says he was surprised by how dramatically the opposition between Reform Party and Center materialized in this election, but said it was too early to see Center Party as the "Russian" party. 

Somewhat of a surprise is also the Social Democrats' under-par performance in the vote total department. They were only fourth. Journalist Kaarel Tarand says that it wasn't solo maverick MEP Indrek Tarand that stole votes from them, but rather the fact that they went into the governing coalition with the Reform Party this spring.

Total vote counts by party/individual candidate
Reform 78885 (24.3%)
Center 71276 (22.3%)
IRL 45219 (13.9%)
Social Democrats 43944 (13.6%)
Indrek Tarand (independent) 43390 (13.2%)
Conservative People's Party 12993 (4.03%)

And in interactive table form, unabridged. (The percentages in this table are incorrect and were later corrected.) 

By candidate, Ansip is the top vote-getter with over 45,037, Tarand is close with 43,390, then Lauristin with 26,871, Toom with 25,263, Kaja Kallas with 21,504 and Kelam around 18,773. Only then Savisaar with 18,527. Wow. Big surprise. Marju Lauristin (Social Dems): "Center has waited too long with a leadership change." Tõnis Saarts of Tallinn University says voters realized there wasn't any point in voting for someone who wasn't going to serve in Brussels anyway.

Although a disappointing night for Center, Yana Toom has surprised - she herself said she was surprised -  apparently becoming the Center Party's only member of European Parliament in the new term. She is bound to be controversial among many Estonians due to what is seen as a somewhat pro-Moscow worldview.  

In an interview on ETV, Tunne Kelam of IRL, which finished third overall, called Yana Toom's election as the result of "irresponsible politics" on the part of Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar.  

Social Democrat Marju Lauristin said she was hopeful that Toom would be a constructive member of MEP for Estonia.

According to preliminary results, it's Estonian ruling party's Reform's big night. They get two seats, one for Andrus Ansip, the former PM, and one for Kaja Kallas, an up-and-comer. IRL gets a seat (Tunne Kelam), Social Democrats also with one (Marju Lauristin), but Center only gets one seat (Yana Toom). Indrek Tarand, independent, also wins a seat. 


The polls have at long last closed in Italy (though to be fair, polls in Sweden was also open almost as late). A massive data dump from the Electoral Committee is expected any minute. 

Chairman of the Electoral Committee Alo Heinsalu: all votes will not be counted by midnight, but most will be. 

Here's a nice chart (with country names in Estonian) showing voter turnout EU-wide. The overall turnout was the same as in 2009, 43%. Note: Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and Cyprus have compulsory voting.

There's been some speculation about how well Indrek Tarand did tonight. Low overall turnout and the fact the incumbent MEP ran a very limited campaign could be factors against him. It's a good point - if there's anything that should not be taken for granted, it's probably that an individual candidate will garner as many votes as entire parties.
Naturally any speculation now has a shelf life of less than an hour - results coming at midnight. They are expected to pour in at that point.   

BREAKING: The white wine has run out at the Reform Party election night shindig and they are on into the red, according to Stiinne Loo. The music at IRL's gig is A-ha's "Take On Me," leaving younger members confused, says commenter Rauno Kuusik.

Kristjan Vassil (a Univ. of Tartu postdoc) just told ETV's Indrek Treufeldt that the last exit polls in Estonia were conducted back "in 2005 or 2007" (!), and he would gladly write an application for a grant to make more such polling possible. Disgruntlement with the lack of results has certainly been a theme this evening. Finland has been the surrogate country for actual real-time counting.  

Party honchos have not been saying anything terribly exciting in their comments to ETV and ERR online. Eiki Nestor of the Social Democrats said he wouldn't speculate on who will be the only party to get a second seat. He said he was certain Marju Lauristin would be elected. A safe bet, probably. IRL's Urmas Reinsalu seemed underconfident, saying 0 or 1, and that "2 would be lucky." He admitted leading candidate and veteran legislator Tunne Kelam has stiff competition within the party in terms of vote totals (Ene Ergma, Yoko Alender et al). The candidate with the most votes, we should recall, takes the seat. 

Finland has finalized its results. News here appears to be that the True Finns pick up a second seat.  France's PM has conceded to Le Pen's forces. This election, that is. 

Canny flower seller lady on Viru tn in Tallinn tells ETV she saw majority young people out at the polls in her precinct at Viimsi - "these people weren't at the beach." ERR News informal network poll indicates many people were able to combine both: beach and voting. 

PR exec Andreas Kaju says the shift toward e-voting and advance polls will change the way parties campaign. Others, too, have expressed surprise at how the traditional mailbox-stuffing tactics contrast to the sleek, "e-" side of things. A commenter wondered why the true discussion on the valimised2014 hashtag seemed to start only once the e- and advance voting was over. 

Tallinn University political scientist Tõnis Saarts says the low turnout is because of the lack of a major issue that appeals to voters, and the EP elections are only third in importance anyway for Estonians. "The situation in Ukraine became the new normal" a few weeks before the election, and the Center Party - which some paint as the "pro-Russian party" due to reasons such as links with United Russia, didn't allow itself to be baited, he said. In 2009, on the other hand, the cause celebre was protesting against closed lists (where parties deternine the order in which their candidates are seated) and many rallied behind independent Indrek Tarand, Saarts said.  

ERR's Rain Kooli worked as a journalist in Finland for many years and knows the country inside and out, which is why the Estonian live blog is getting so much hard data from there, with another two hours before Estonian precincts report. Let's permit ourselves one more digression into sports in case people are too glued to politics  - Finland and Russia are tied in the hockey world championship going into the second period!

Most of the election night parties about to start in a few minutes. Independent candidate Indrek Tarand did not throw one, opting for a press conference on May 28 where he will comment on the results.  

A "Did You Know": Helsinki beat Tallinn in voter turnout, 52.5% to 43.6%. 

Numbers are in. But not from the electoral committee, but the Reform Party election night HQ. Former PM Andrus Ansip, always the ironman, biked 110 km today before coming to the party, according to commenter Stiinne Loo.  

From the Estonian live blog at the bottom of this page - commenter says a combination of record e-vote turnout and low overall turnout could spell trouble for Center Party in terms of getting its hoped-for two seats. Few e-voters favor Center and perhaps not coincidentally, Center questions the entire format of e-voting.  

Not that it wasn't expected, but while Estonia is more pious than the pope and keeping lips sealed on results per EU regulations, leaving commentators to talk about the weather and Ukraine, then according to ERR's Rain Kooli, Finland is flouting EU law and releasing results in real-time. (Rural centrist Keskusta and right of center ruling party Kokoomus neck and neck there with 48% of votes counted.)

Kristjan Vassil, political pundit, on ETV: "I would not have expected turnout to be so low (36%) in my worst nightmares. Especially as these elections are taking place in a tense security/political situation." He had predicted 44% just today. 

Alo Heinsalu, chairman of the Electoral Committee, says not a single complaint was received by the committee regarding voting and the committee's work. The main problems involved people not knowing they could vote in person only in one specific precinct. That does seem like an inconvenience compared to the ease of e-voting, which can be done from any Internet connection.  

Final turnout confirmed for Estonia - 36.44%. That's lower than 43 percent the last time. Over 40% only in Tallinn. (Comparison: Latvia was a hair over 30%. Reports are that turnout was 13% in Slovakia?!)

Here's the turnout by each county: 

Useful comparison of what the current six MEPs for Estonia have done.   

One semi-anonymous commentator quipped during the Saturday night debate that everyone who matters already voted (in the e-voting). Elitist as it may be, there's a grain of truth in the trend of urban, better-educated voters favoring the e-format. In the informal poll of people following the ERR's Estonian-language live blog, below, a minority said they voted today; more said they e-voted.

It appears that other countries are less stringent than Estonia in sticking to the rules of disclosure of results, said Alo Heinsalu, chairman of the Electoral Committee on ETV. For example, Latvian exit polls were released, Finland is releasing a combination of exit polls and preliminary data.  

It was another glorious day in Estonia, with temperatures reaching 30 C again in Tallinn before a mid-afternoon thunderstorm cooled the city off. The beach weather may have been one reason that kept voters away from the polls. By 16:00, 31.6 percent of eligible voters had cast a ballot, under the pace of the last EP elections. We're now waiting for updated, final turnout figures. The direct link to the relevant Electoral Committee page is here. 

____'s live blog:

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