April 21, 2024

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Klass, an ally of Ukraine, is fighting for re-election in Estonia’s vote

Klass, an ally of Ukraine, is fighting for re-election in Estonia’s vote

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Polling stations have opened in Estonia for a general election for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ center-right reform party. One of Europe’s most outspoken supporters of Ukraine, he is the favorite to win.

It faces a challenge from the populist opposition party EKRE, which seeks to reduce the Baltic state’s exposure to the Ukraine crisis and blames the government for citizens’ economic misery.

More than 900,000 people are eligible to cast ballots on Sunday to choose representatives to the 101-seat Estonian Parliament, or Riigikogu, from a grouping of nine political parties. National security in the wake of neighboring Russia’s attack on Ukraine and social and economic issues, particularly the rising cost of living, were major themes of the election.

Klass, 45, has emerged in the last year of the war as one of Europe’s most vocal supporters of Ukraine. She has held the highest office in the country since 2021, and is seeking a second term, while strengthening her position through her international demands for sanctions against Moscow.

Estonia is a Baltic country of 1.3 million people that borders Russia to the east. It broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991 and took a clear western course, joining NATO and the European Union.

Opinion polls indicate that Klass’ center-right liberal Reform Party is likely to win more votes than any other party. Her main rival is Martin Helme, head of the far-right nationalist EKRE party, who faults Callas for the country’s 18.6% inflation rate – one of the highest in the European Union – and accuses it of undermining Estonia’s defenses by giving weapons to Ukraine.

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