Estonia’s ruling party is poised to retain power in a ballot on Sunday as concern the conflict in Ukraine will herald similar unrest helps isolate its main challenger. Prime Minister Taavi Roivas’s Reform Party has as much as 23 percent support, neck and neck with the Center Party, which is backed by more than three quarters of ethnic-Russian voters, the latest polls show. Even if the Center Party wins, potential coalition partners such as the Social Democrats or Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit have ruled out an alliance with it. The Baltic region, which evaded Soviet control as communism fell 24 years ago, has been jolted by the Ukraine conflict, the annexation of Crimea and Russian fighter-jet activity on its borders. Concern Vladimir Putin will foment disquiet among ethnic Russians in Estonia, a European Union and NATO member, prompted Reform to add defense pledges to promises of tax cuts.
“The security situation is perceived as very disturbing by the average Estonian,” said Raivo Vetik, a professor at Institute of Political Science and Governance at Tallinn University. “It will certainly benefit right-wing parties emphasizing nationalist sentiment such as Reform and Isamaa.”
Reform’s coalition with Defense Minister Sven Mikser’s Social Democrats commands 57 votes in the 101-seat parliament and is among Europe’s staunchest advocates of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. It’s also sought a permanent presence in Estonia for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a source of hostility for the Russian minority of 333,000 people, or a quarter of the population.