FAQ: A brief overview of Estonia's 2023 elections

A voter casts a ballot at the 2019 Riigikogu election.
A voter casts a ballot at the 2019 Riigikogu election. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

Estonia's national elections are held every four years and the next vote will take place in 2023. ERR News lays out the basic facts.

When will the next election take place?

Who will be elected?

The 101 members of the Riigikogu.

Who can vote?

Only Estonian citizens over the age of 18 can vote in the Riigikogu elections, unlike the local elections where Estonian residents can also participate.

Votes can be cast inside and outside of Estonia.

When and how will voting take place?

Both online and in-person.

Election Day will be on Sunday (March 5) but advanced voting will start the preceding Monday (February 27).

Votes can be cast online and at ballot boxes during advanced voting.

2019 Riigikogu elections. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

What will the main issues be?

The cost of living crisis – rising prices and inflation – is likely to dominate the next six months of party politics, alongside security and national defense in light of Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as the acceptance of Ukrainian refugees.

Additionally, the opposition party EKRE has also hinted at the possibility of raising the marriage referendum issue again and several parties have suggested reforming Estonia's current tax system.

When will the results be announced?

E-voting results will be announced as soon as the polls close on March 5, while paper ballots will take longer to count. The result should be clear by the following morning.

How are seats allocated?

Estonia has a proportional voting system and parties must win at least 5 percent of the vote to be represented in the parliament.

The Riigikogu's 101 seats are split between the winning parties. See ERR News' explainer here.

Riigikogu election 2019. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

How and when will a government be formed?

If a single party wins 50 percent of the vote then it can rule alone. But this has never happened before and is unlikely to in 2023. Therefore, parties will negotiate to form a coalition.

The party with the most votes will be given the right to form a coalition first by the president. If this is not possible, as happened in 2019, the responsibility will then pass to the party that came second in the elections.

Ideally, a coalition needs at least 51 seats, a majority, to pass legislation during its term.

Usually, coalition agreements take several weeks to conclude and the government must then be sworn in.

What can we expect?

EKRE, as the biggest opposition party, may well gain more seats, while the ruling Reform Party is on course to take the election victory based on recent polls.

Current polling suggests Eesti 200 will clear the 5 percent threshold and win seats in the Riigikogu for the first time.

The Estonian Greens and the newly formed Parempoolsed are unlikely to make the threshold.

What happened at the last election?

A man votes at the 2019 Riigikogu election. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

For those who don't remember the results of the 2019 elections, here's a brief recap.

The Reform Party took the most votes (28.9 percent), followed by the Center Party (23.1 percent), EKRE (17.8 percent), Isamaa (11.4 percent) and the Social Democratic Party (9.8 percent).

New party Eesti 200, which formed before the election, just missed the 5 percent threshold. The Estonian Green Party won 1 percent of the vote.

Five parties crossed the threshold, winning seats in the Riigikogu. The majority were awarded to Reform (34), Center (26) and EKRE (19).

During the last four years, the parties formed three different coalitions.

How did the 2015 and 2019 results compare?

EKRE's share of the vote increased by 9 percent between the 2015 and 2019 elections, rising from 8.15 percent to 17.8 percent.

Reform's result stayed almost the same, while Center, SDE and Isamaa's all fell.

Support for the Estonian Free Party, which won 8.7 percent at the 2015 election and eight seats, collapsed in 2019 to 1.2 percent. In 2020, it merged with the Biodiversity Party of Estonia to form the Estonian Party for the Future.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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