Large share of diaspora paper vote goes to EKRE

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EKRE torch procession on 24 February 2019.
EKRE torch procession on 24 February 2019. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Of 1,726 Estonians abroad who participated in early voting either at Estonian diplomatic representations or by mail, 43.7% voted for the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), while the winning Reform Party got just 17%. According to ERR News editor Aili Vahtla, this is no surprise, as many diaspora Estonians tend to be very conservative in their views.

The votes of another 381 individuals are not included in this statistic, as they voted electronically. Due to the make-up of the system and the point where votes are anonymised, there is no way to tell Estonians living abroad from Estonians registered here who voted digitally while spending time abroad.

Although the Estonian diaspora number an estimated 200,000, a much smaller number of them have Estonian passports, again a smaller number is eligible to vote and registered to do so, of which then an even smaller part actually goes to the polls.

Number of diaspora Estonians who voted extremely small

In the case of the general election on 3 March, just 2,061 did so, including 1,726 who voted conventionally. Of that latter group, 43.7% went to EKRE, 17% to the Reform Party, 10% to the Social Democratic Party (SDE), 9.5% to the Centre Party and 9% to Isamaa.

The remaining approximately 10% of the foreign Estonian paper vote was divided among the other political parties and candidates running in the election, the BNS wrote on Monday evening.

Citizens could vote at polling stations at Estonian representations abroad between 16 and 21 February. Altogether 40 such polling stations were opened in 35 countries.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 77,881 Estonian citizens living abroad are entitled to vote in Estonian elections, which means that at 2,061, just under 1.2% of them actually voted in the election.

ERR News editor: Diaspora Estonians tend to be conservative

Aili Vahtla, editor at ERR News and herself an Estonian-American born and raised in Baltimore, points out that a great number of diaspora Estonians, including wartime refugees and their descendants, don't vote in Estonian elections.

"At the same time, many descendants of wartime refugee Estonians are also very, very conservative in terms of eg US politics, and support positions and principles that are similar to those of EKRE," Ms Vahtla said.

"Then there are those who are charmed by EKRE's blue, black and white flags, reminiscient of the Estonian national tricolour, the party's use of national symbols such as the blue cornflower, and patriotic songs with which diaspora Estonians grew up, as well as its passionate promises to protect the Estonian language and culture," she explained, citing as another example those who fall for EKRE's annual Independence Day torchlight march. "But they aren't actually informed enough about Estonian politics to understand what is behind it all. This is particularly sad to see."

Nonetheless, it is important to point out that those foreign Estonians who voted for EKRE make up just about a third of what is again just 1% of the estimated total diaspora, and just under 1% of all those diaspora Estonians actually entitled to vote.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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