Top six takeaways from Estonia's 2023 Riigikogu elections

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

ERR News lists the key takeaways from the 2023 Riigikogu elections.

1) It was a good night for liberal parties

Reform, Eesti 200, and the Social Democrats (SDE) all had successful elections.

Reform and Eesti 200 increased their mandates, while SDE dropped from 10 to nine seats but still came in ahead of Isamaa.

EKRE, Center and Isamaa all saw their number of mandates fall.

Results: Reform 37 mandates, EKRE 17, Center 16, Eesti 200 won 14, the SDE nine and Isamaa eight.

2) It was a bad night for Center and EKRE

Jüri Ratas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Center Party's number of mandates fell from 26 in 2019 to 16.

Center had the second-highest number of seats in the parliament after the last Riigikogu election four years ago. It is now third.

EKRE won the second-highest number of mandates this year but lost two, dropping from 19 to 17.

The party had expected to take over 20 seats.

It is now effectively blocked out of the governing coalition for the next four years as Reform, SDE and Eesti 200 are refusing to enter into government with EKRE.

The previous Center/EKRE/Isamaa formation is 10 votes short of a majority and cannot reform.

3) Eesti 200 crossed the election threshold

Eesti 200's election party. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Eesti 200 won 14 percent of the vote and crossed the Riigikogu's 5 percent threshold. The party missed out in 2019, winning 4.4 percent of the vote.

Eesti 200 is seen as being a realistic option for inclusion in a governing coalition headed by Reform.

4) Record-breaking turnout

Votes being counted in Rakvere. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin /ERR

An additional 49,000 voters cast a ballot this year, compared with the total in 2019.

This increase is somewhat hidden by a new turnout methodology, which includes all Estonians living abroad, adding approximately 80,000 to the pool of potential voters.

Experts expected turnout to fall, as expatriates rarely vote, but overall turnout matched 2019's 63.7 percent.

In total, 615,009 Estonians voted in this election, the highest number since 1992.

5) E-vote record broken — again

Online voting in the 2023 Riigikogu elections on Saturday evening. March 4, 2023. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Over 51 percent of the ballots at this year's election were cast online.

At the last Riigikogu election in 2019, the figure was 44 percent and it was 47 percent two years later at the 2021 local elections.

This year, 313,514 digital votes were cast, in comparison to 301,495 paper ballots.

6) Kaja Kallas is Estonia's most popular politician

Kaja Kallas Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Incumbent Prime Minister Kaja Kallas won 31,821 votes which is a new record for an Estonian politician.

Kallas stood for election in the biggest election district, Harju and Rapla counties, which is a Reform stronghold and home to many Tallinn commuters.

She was followed by the Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) with 14,598 votes and Tallinn City Council's Kristen Michal (Reform) on 9,207.

Looking at the top 10 candidates by votes, seven places were taken by Reform politicians, two by Center plus EKRE's former chairman Mart Helme.


What happens next?

Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

President Alar Karis will give the biggest party, Reform, a mandate to try and form a governing coalition.

This will be followed by negotiations between parties as they try and reach an agreement. This process can take weeks.

If negotiations fail, the president offers the second-largest party the opportunity to form a government.

Reform has already ruled out a coalition with EKRE and so have SDE and Eesti 200.

Kaja Kallas said she is open to starting discussions with every party except EKRE.

EKRE, Isamaa and Center do not have enough mandates between themselves to recreate their previous coalition.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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