The Leftist Center Party retained government
power after the 2019 elections. Party leader Jüri Ratas
continued as prime minister for a coalition government
that included Conservative Isamaa as before. But for the
first time ever in Estonia, a right-wing populist party
- Ekre, is also participating. Many voters, not least in
the countryside, voted for the immigration and EU-critical
party, which came in third place in the election.
The Liberal Reform Party dominated politics in
Estonia for many years, but in the fall of 2016, its
dominance was broken when the Center Party, the Social
Democrats and the conservative right-wing Alliance
Isamaa formed a coalition government. The 2016 shift of
power became possible after a young politician
generation in the Center maneuvered out veteran Savisaar
and elected 38-year-old Jüri Ratas as new party leader.
The Social Democrats and Conservative Isamaa then left a
government cooperation with the Reform Party and formed
a coalition with the Center under Rata's leadership.
Country facts and history of Estonia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Savisaar had become a powerful institution in
politics, at the same time as there was a pent-up
dissatisfaction with the Reform Party's dominance over
the state apparatus. When both of these forces were
maneuvered away, a new chapter could be opened in
The Reform Party reacted bitterly, accusing the new
government of being Putin-friendly. Prime Minister Ratas,
however, assured that Estonia's EU and NATO-friendly
foreign policy was firm. New Foreign Minister became the
experienced security politician Sven Mikser from the
Social Democrats. Margus Tsahkna was appointed Minister
of Defense from the strongly Russian-critical Isamaa.
The coalition rejected domestic and foreign
speculation about a Russian military threat to Estonia.
According to the government, such tasks were baseless
despite Moscow's military demonstration at the border
(see Foreign Policy and Defense). At the same time,
however, tensions were felt to weaken interest in
foreign investment in Estonia.
Want to create unity between Esther and Russians
The Center and the Social Democrats, as well as the
politically independent President Kersti Kaljulaid,
emphasized the importance of national unity between
Esther and Russians. This happened after a period when
the former Reform Party-led government coalition and the
former president caused strong dissatisfaction with the
country's Russian minority (see Modern History).
President Kaljulaid speaks Russian - a contrast to the
representative, who did not explicitly want to learn
The Center Party felt that citizenship and full
voting rights for the Russian minority (see Population
and Languages) would strengthen national unity and
Estonia's democratic system vis-à-vis Russia. Prime
Minister Ratas proposed that everyone who has lived in
the country since independence in 1991 should be granted
citizenship. Similar ideas existed with the Social
Democrats, but Isamaa opposed such changes.
The Center Party, for its part, has a challenge in
maintaining its Russian-speaking electoral base, while
the center-led coalition wants to strengthen NATO's
presence in Estonia. The Russian minority is skeptical
of the NATO membership, which is considered to increase
the conflict with Russia. However, the Estonian Russians
are supporters of Estonia's independence and do not
drive any separatism to connect, for example, the Narva
area to Russia.
Strict refugee policy
The Center and the Social Democrats reached a
compromise with the market-friendly Isamaa in the old
battle over taxes. The flat tax of 20 percent would
remain, but the tax-free deduction was sharply increased
and removed for high incomes. In practice, Estonia thus
abandoned the uniform tax the country first joined in
Europe in the 1990s. The lowest wages and pensions are
now tax free.
Population decline has long been one of Estonia's
most difficult problems (see Population and Languages),
which several governments have tried to address with
family policy measures. For example, the new government
has significantly increased the child allowance for
families with at least three children.
But neither party advocates a generous immigration
and refugee policy as a solution to the population
issue. Estonia's refugee reception has been a record low
with an average of eight asylum seekers annually in
2005–2014. There is a popular resistance to immigration
that the government has listened to. The office of
president has been a counterbalance to this and urged
the government to take greater responsibility in
Europe's refugee crisis - if Estonia wants to count on
solidarity in its own need. In 2015, the government said
no to the EU refugee quota for Estonia but then agreed
to receive 550 refugees in two years.
Election year 2019
Estonia was one of the countries, together with
Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the
USA, among others, that did not sign the UN Global
Migration Agreement at a high-level conference in
Marrakech, Morocco on 10 December. Foreign Minister Sven
Mikser had advocated that Estonia should sign the
agreement, but he was thwarted by Justice Minister Urmas
Reinsalu of Isamaa, who feared that the agreement could
become legally binding on Estonia and affect the
country's ability to control its migration policy
itself. President Kersti Kaljulaid criticized the
government for not being able to unite and show its
support for the UN's work on migrant rights.
Shortly thereafter, in early December 2018, the
President signed a resolution that the country should
hold parliamentary elections on March 3, 2019.
In the elections, the Reform Party won by a clear
margin over the ruling Center Party, which came in
second place. The right-wing populist, anti-immigrant
and EU-critical Ekre advanced strongly and became the
third largest party in the elections.
The leader of the reform party Kaja Kallas excluded a
government collaboration with Ekre, but signaled that
she was open to cooperating with other parties. She then
made an invitation to the Center Party to form a joint
government, a proposal which, however, was rejected by
Ratas. He had instead reached an agreement with the
former coalition partner Isamaa and Ekre, despite the
fact that before the election he promised not to enter
into any cooperation with the right-wing populists.
President Kaljulaid first gave the commission to form
government to the Kaja Kallas Reform Party. The Social
Democrats, who came in last place in the election,
accepted the offer to cooperate with the Reform Party.
But the parties did not receive enough support in
Parliament to form a government.
The tour then went to Center Party's Jüri Ratas and
his tripartite coalition. In the vote that followed, the
coalition was supported by 56 members, giving it a
scarce majority in Parliament.
In addition to the Prime Minister's post, which Jüri
Ratas retains, the Center Party is also responsible for
finance and infrastructure issues. Ekres party leader
Mart Helme becomes Minister of the Interior while his
son Martin gets the post of finance minister. In
addition, the party will be responsible for rural
issues, the environment, foreign trade and IT. Isamaa,
in turn, gets the Defense, Justice, Foreign and Cultural
Minister posts. The government plans a comprehensive
Prime Minister Ratas has promised to continue the EU-
and NATO-oriented policy, but it is expected to be more
complicated for the new government to agree on
immigration and education issues. Not least because Ekre
is negative for labor immigration.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Eesti Vabariik / Republic of Estonia
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Kersti Kaljulaid (2016-)
Head of government
Jüri Ratas (2016−)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Reform Party 34, Center Party 26, Conservative
People's Party Ekre 19, Right Alliance of Confederation
of the Fatherland and Res Publica / Isamaa 12, Social
Democrats 10 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Reform Party 30, Center Party 27, Social Democrats
15, Right Alliance Confederation of Alliance and Res
Publica / Isamaa 14, Free Party 8, Conservative People's
Party 7 (2015)
63% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023, the parliament elects