Estonia’s government collapses as PM loses confidence vote

Taavi Rõivas loses parliament vote 63-28 as president urges heads of country’s six parties to form new government. Estonia’s government has collapsed after the prime minister, Taavi Rõivas, lost a confidence vote in parliament following months of Cabinet squabbling, mainly over economic policies.

Lawmakers in the 101-seat parliament on Wednesday ousted Rõivas in a 63-28 vote, with 10 members abstaining or absent.

Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, has summoned the heads of the six parliamentary parties on forming a new government.

The main opposition Centre party, which is tipped to lead the new government, has vowed to keep Estonia solidly rooted in the eurozone and Nato as the Baltic state of 1.3 million people gears up to assume the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2017.

The party chose a new leader, 38-year-old Jüri Ratas, at the weekend, raising calls for him to take over as prime minister.

Commanding 27 seats, the Centre party is popular among the sizeable ethnic Russian minority who account for a quarter of Estonia’s population.

A respected deputy speaker of parliament, Ratas replaced Edgar Savisaar, 66, whose perceived ties to Russia had scared off potential coalition partners amid heightened tensions with Moscow.

“Jüri Ratas has today said nothing will change in Estonia’s stance vis-a-vis Nato, the EU,” Estonian political analyst Ahto Lobjakas told AFP on Wednesday.

“He would risk an immense public backlash were he to go back on these commitments. I have no reason to think him disingenuous,” he added.

Rõivas’s government was formed in April 2015 after his Reform party won the parliamentary elections. But its work has been hampered by serious policy differences between the party and its coalition partners – the left-leaning Social Democrats and conservative IRL Party.