Narva, an Estonian town on the Russian border, is tired of hearing it is next. “There simply couldn’t be a repeat of Crimea here,” says Vladislav Ponjatovski, head of a local trade union. Mr Ponjatovski, an ethnic Russian, helped launch a Narva autonomy referendum in 1993. Now he would never consider it. Today’s Estonia offers higher living standards and membership of NATO and the European Union. Nobody in Narva longs to be in Ivangorod, the Russian town over the river. The fear that the Kremlin may test NATO by stirring up trouble in the Baltics haunts the West. Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, says there is already a “real and present danger”. Russia has violated Baltic airspace and harassed ships in the Baltic Sea. Russian agents crossed the border and kidnapped an Estonian intelligence officer last autumn. The new security environment is “not just bad weather, it’s climate change,” says Lieutenant General Riho Terras, head of the Estonian Defence Forces.
Estonia’s prime minister was preparing to form a new government Monday, a day after his ruling Reform Party won parliamentary elections. Taavi Roivas’ center-right group, which includes the Social Democrats, lost seven seats in the vote and now has 45 lawmakers in the 101-seat Parliament, prompting negotiations with smaller parties to form a majority coalition. Roivas met the country’s head of state before discussions with other party leaders. At their meeting, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves suggested forming a broad coalition, saying the small nation of 1.3 million people “needs a responsible and capable government … (to) maintain Estonia’s security, governance and local government reforms.”
Estonians voted Sunday in an election marked by jitters over a militarily resurgent Russia and a popular pro-Kremlin party, with the security conscious centre-left coalition tipped for a return to power. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year and its meddling in eastern Ukraine have galvanised the European Union, including this eurozone member of 1.3 million people, a quarter of whom are ethnic Russian. Military manoeuvres by Moscow on Estonia’s border days ahead of the vote further stoked deep concerns in Europe that the Kremlin could attempt to destabilise countries that were in its orbit during Soviet times. NATO is countering the moves by boosting defences on its eastern flank with a spearhead force of 5,000 troops and command centres in six formerly communist members of the Alliance, including one in Estonia.
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 United States has a rich history of third parties. In 1856, Millard Fillmore made a strong run for president on the Whig-American ticket. Fifty-six years later, Theodore Roosevelt captured 27 percent of the popular vote as the Progressive Party’s candidate. Ross Perot made his mark in 1992 and again, although to a lesser extent, in 1996 with the Reform Party. But the number of votes won don’t tell the whole story. In local and national races, third-party candidates often contribute to an election by pushing the Republican and Democratic candidates on issues they might otherwise avoid. If they do it effectively, as Perot did in 1992, the system benefits. Last week, it became a little harder for third parties to play that role in New Hampshire. On Monday, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire over a change to state law that makes it more difficult for third parties to collect the signatures needed for inclusion on election ballots.
Voting Blogs: Ninth Circuit Upholds Denial of “Independent” Label on California Ballots, Leaves Option for Another Lawsuit Issue of Labels for Members of Unqualified Parties | Ballot Access News
On July 3, the Ninth Circuit upheld California law that requires independent candidates for Congress and partisan state office to have “No party preference” on the ballot instead of the label “independent.” However, the ruling leaves open for a future lawsuit the related issue of whether the law is unconstitutional as applied to members of unqualified parties; the law requires “no party preference” for them as well. The case is Chamness v Bowen, 11-56303. The 26-page opinion says there is no evidence that “no party preference”, instead of “independent”, injures independent candidates. The decision does not mention the point that California still permits independent presidential candidates to use the word “independent” on the ballot.
Estonia: MEP Kristiina Ojuland Ejected From Reform Party Over Alleged Vote Rigging | Politics | News | ERR
The Reform Party, headed by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, has cast out MEP Kristiina Ojuland for vote rigging in an internal party election in May. After the scandal emerged in a newspaper report last week, Taimi Samblik, a regional development director, admitted to having secretly cast e-votes on behalf of roughly 40 elderly party members who later said they had not voted. Samblik, who left the party today, said she had been persuaded to rig the votes by Ojuland in May, and in another leadership vote in 2011, by Lääne-Viru County Governor Einar Vallbaum, who has so far avoided being expelled.
Voting Blogs: Connecticut Legislature Passes Bill Outlawing Fusion for New and Small Parties | Ballot Access News
On June 4, the Connecticut legislature passed HB 6580, which outlaws fusion unless both parties had polled at least 15,000 votes for one of the state statewide offices at the previous gubernatorial election. The bill passed the House on June 1 and the Senate on June 4. It also alters campaign finance laws. See this story, which is not accurate when it says the bill entirely bans fusion. “Fusion” means the practice of two parties jointly nominating the same candidate, so that his or her name appears on the November ballot with both party labels. Assuming the Governor signs the bill and it takes effect, it is probably unconstitutional. States are free to ban fusion if they wish, but they cannot do so in a discriminatory manner. For instance, the Third Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law in 1999 that permitted fusion between two large parties but not fusion between a large party and a small party, in Reform Party of Allegheny County v Allegheny County Department of Elections, 174 F.3d 305.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has drawn a connection in the e-voting fraud scandal with MEP Kristiina Ojuland.
Ansip told Postimees after a party meeting that Ojuland has made payments from her personal bank account to compensate the party membership dues of 39 people whose identities are suspected to have been stolen. Võru County has emerged as the second voting district to be wrapped up in the Reform Party’s leadership election scandal, in which an insider is suspected of secretly casting e-votes on behalf of elderly party members who claim not to have voted. Only a few cases of identity theft are suspected in Võru County, as opposed to dozens in Lääne-Viru County, ERR radio reported.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said a member of his party has admitted to manipulating e-votes in the Reform Party’s leadership election last week and in another election in 2011. “The party secretary has a specific individual’s explanation in written form in which the individual admits to having committed the acts at hand. And the individual has suggested that he or she did this at the request and knowing of someone else,” Ansip told ERR radio, without revealing any names as the investigation is still in progress.
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer announced in a statement this morning that his quixotic independent campaign for president has come to an end. After failing to get access to the GOP primary debates last year, Roemer had decided to run as an independent and seek the Reform Party and Americans Elect nominations. Then, Americans Elect folded earlier this month, while Roemer continued to struggle to draw attention and interest to his campaign. In his statement, Roemer said he would create a new organization — details TBD — focused on his core issue of getting corporate and special interest money out of politics.
Larvia’s elections on September 17 were called as a result of the political upsets in the summer when President Valdis Zatlers tried to confront the grip that he said the country’s three “oligarchs” had on its parliament, the Saeima. Bloomberg has a useful summary of the state of play. It looks as though the parties affiliated with the tycoons may win only 14 of 100 seats, down from 51 five years ago and 30 in 2010.
Aivars Lembergs, mayor of the big port of Ventspils, will probably do best. A poll gives his Greens and Farmers Union 8.5% which will at least get it into parliament. He faces a long-running investigation for bribery, money laundering and abuse of office since 2008 (he vehemently denies all wrongdoing). Ainārs Šlesers, who was at the centre of a controversy that prompted this summer’s crisis, is unlikely to return to parliament. His “For a Better Latvia” is polling less than the 5% threshold. The third “oligarch” Andris Šķēle has dissolved his party.
Latvians may elect a new premier to lead the country’s deficit-cutting government after a weekend referendum dissolved parliament and propelled a new party to the top of opinion polls.
Almost 95 percent of voters on July 23 backed former President Valdis Zatlers’s call to dismiss lawmakers as part of an anti-corruption drive. The wave that swept away parliament drove Zatlers’s Reform Party, founded in June, into a first- place tie with the pro-Russian Harmony Center in opinion polls, followed by Premier Valdis Dombrovskis’s Unity party.
Latvian party politics is going through a major upheaval in the lead up to this month’s general referendum on the dissolution of parliament. The political maneuvering of the past few days has resulted in party mergers, liquidations and foundations.
The scramble was launched by the announcement on Saturday by former Latvian President Valdis Zatlers that he would create his own political party to run in the next elections. It will be called the “Reform Party” and will be right-leaning, but specifics of who might join the party are still not clear.