Local government overview: Reform rules in 30 municipalities, Center in 28

Coalitions map - dark green: Center, yellow: Reform, royal blue: EKRE, red: SDE, light blue: Isamaa, gray: electoral alliances. The various other shades of green mainly reflect coalitions with Center and one other party.
Coalitions map - dark green: Center, yellow: Reform, royal blue: EKRE, red: SDE, light blue: Isamaa, gray: electoral alliances. The various other shades of green mainly reflect coalitions with Center and one other party. Source: ERR

The Reform Party is in office in 30 municipalities across Estonia, the highest of any party, despite polling fewer votes at the October 17 local election than the Center Party, which is in office in 28 municipalities.

While this year's local elections took place on October 17, the ensuing time has been devoted to coalition negotiations, voting in municipal leaders and the resolution at the Supreme Court of half-a-dozen complaints, meaning that only now can a fuller overview be finalized.

This week is also the first week local governments must start work by law, following the complaints' resolution. In some cases, municipalities have not elected a mayor yet, but the equally (or more) important council chair will be installed in any case, meaning local municipalities can still function.

The two coalition parties in national government, the Reform Party and the Center Party, are also in office in more municipalities nationwide, than any other parties, with Reform taking 30 of these, Center, 28.

While Reform took around 40,000 fewer votes nationwide at the October 17 local elections, it is in coalition in slightly more municipalities than Center.

Reform is additionally in a "mutual support agreement" in Toila, Ida-Viru County, with a local electoral alliance.

Center, which picked up 142,609 votes across the country, the highest of any single party, is in coalition in 28 municipalities.

Isamaa is in office in 19 municipalities, the Conservative People's Party of Estonian (EKRE) on 17.

While Eesti 200's strong performance vote-wise at the elections has been extensively commented on, it is only in coalitions in four municipalities: Narva (though these talks have been derailed by a vote-buying scandal), the prosperous Tallinn commuter municipalities of Viimsi and Jõelähtme, and Põhja-Sakala, in Vijandi County.

The party polled 35,351 votes.

Local electoral alliances make up a large proportion of coalition partners – Tallinn is one notable exception – but since they are focused on one specific municipality their national vote is not large. The intersection between such alliances and the mainstream parties is quite nuanced, while there is nothing to stop members of one of the mainstream parties from running for an electoral alliance instead. One noteworthy example of this is Katri Raik (SDE), who was mayor of Narva prior to the election and is a former interior minister.

She ran on her own electoral list last month, which was in coalition negotiations with Eesti 200, but these have stalled after a criminal investigation into one of the other candidates on Raik's list – himself the regional Reform Party boss and in relation to the vote-buying scandal noted above.

This has also led to politicians inflating the number of gains made at the elections, at least in one case. The Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader, Indrek Saar, made a claim last weekend (link in Estonian) that the party is in coalition in 22 municipalities, whereas in reality these number only five: The island of Hiiumaa, one of its most notable gains along with that of the capital, where the party is in coalition with Center, pus Tartu, Jõelähtme and Võru.

In other cases the candidates Saar was referring to were SDE members who ran on an electoral alliance list.

In the overview below, therefore, which depicts the leading party in each municipality, electoral alliances are not counted – hence the preponderance of gray, which would mean that an alliance or alliances were the largest component of the coalition in that municipality.

Figures from the State Electoral Committee show that Center took 142,209 votes, giving the party a 24.4 percent share of all votes, followed by Reform at 101,387 (17.3 percent), EKRE (77,339, 13.2 percent), Isamaa (48,874, 8.4 percent), Eesti 200 (35,351, 6.0 percent), SDE (29,105, 5.0 percent), Greens (6,314, 1.1 percent) and TULE (282 votes).

Again, these results do not include those who voted for a local electoral alliance.

Voter turnout stood at 54.7 percent.

The local elections have the widest franchise of any of Estonia's elections – all permanent residents of Estonia are permitted to vote – whereas only EU citizens may vote in the European Elections, and only Estonian citizens at the Riigikogu election. Presidents are elected by the Riigikogu alone in the first instance.

The next elections are to the Riigikogu, in March 2023.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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