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Estonians Head to the Ballot Box

Source: Photo: Scanpix/Postimees

Estonia holds parliamentary elections today, March 6, to decide whether its current government, a center-right coalition of the Reform and IRL parties, will remain in power. Poll numbers are in the ruling government's favor, but with 44 percent of the electorate still undecided on the eve of the vote and the gap between the parties narrowing, the outcome is by no means certain.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party is no doubt hoping that the government's fiscal achievements - consistently running a balanced budget, maintaining the lowest public debt in the EU and ushering the country into the Eurozone - will give it a boost at the ballot box.

In a nation hard-hit by the economic crisis though, the issues of most concern for the average citizen are unemployment, which stood at 15.5 percent last quarter, and rising prices, particularly those for food.

Reform has seen its support slip from its 43 percent high in November to just 28 percent last month, according to surveys by TNS Emor.

Meanwhile the opposition Centre Party is polling at a close second with 25 percent, despite involvement by the party's chairman, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, in scandal in which he secretly sought party funding from Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin, who has close ties to the Kremlin.

Reform's coalition partner IRL remains in third position in the polls with 21 percent support, while the Social Democrats come in fourth at 16 percent.

For a large portion of Estonians, election day is already past. More than 27 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in an early voting period, most of them via the nation's internet voting system which the tech-savvy nation first pioneered in 2005.

Results of the early voting will be released just after Estonia's 625 polling stations close, at 20:00 local time (GMT +2).

At around the same time, officials will also announce the preliminary results from the nation's 12 voting districts. The election's final tally is expected at approximately 23:00 local time.

In these elections 789 candidates, about 200 fewer than in 2007, are running for 101 seats in Parliament. Of those, 32 are running as independents, against eight in 2007.

 

Steve Roman

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