Several of my friends were standing for election to the Estonian Parliament.
Estonian politics are quite tightly defined. In many ways the cross party debates that take place in Estonia are mirrors of the debates that take place within the Liberal Democrats in the UK- so dominant is the Liberal strain of thought in the Estonian body politic. Two parties: Reform and the Centre Party are members of Liberal international, while the leading right wing party also defines itself as a classical liberal party. Even the Social Democrats espouse overtly liberal policies.
The outgoing coalition was between the Centre Party and Reform, with the support of the smaller, conservative and agrarian party, the National League (Rahva Liit). In fact, although ideologically liberal, the Centre Party is dominated by the populist personality of its founder and leader, Edgar Savisaar. So, while Lembit Opik was able to persuade the Centre Party to join the European Liberal group, in fact Savisaar is a law unto himself- the most polarising personality of Estonian politics.
Perhaps then we should not be so surprised to see that Reform achieved such a strong result- overtaking Centre as the largest party and increasing their vote by 10% and their number of MPs to 31 in the 101 seat Parliament. It was a spectacular result, and has been greeted with delight and astonishment in Liberal circles across Europe. An overtly freedom driven agenda has proven very popular in an election where turnout was the highest in a decade.
It is a triumph for Reform Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, and one for Liberals to enjoy across Europe.
Meanwhile the united Isamaa-Res publica Liit- the Conservatives- saw their support fall, although admittedly not by as much as had been predicted. Despite pulling out all the stops and being well funded from abroad, the IRL were firmly beaten in to third place- gaining not much more than half the number of seats they won last time- and were lucky not to be overtaken by the Social Democrats.
David Cameron had a big role in the IRL campaign- appearing in their party election broadcasts. Several of my Estonian friends asked who "the bald English Conservative" was, and found it a little irritating that the Conservatives were telling Estonians what was good for them. I agreed, since that is what the Conservatives keep trying to tell the Brits, and I find that just as annoying.
In any event Cameron backed a losing horse.
Meanwhile I can congratulate Igor Grazin, Maret Maripuu, Meelis Atonen, and Imre Sooaar on their solid re-election for Reform. Congratulations too to Mailis Reps of Keskerakond. I was also pleased to see Tivimi Velliste back for IRL and Sven Mikser back for the Social Democrats.
A great result for Reform- who can now choose whether they should continue to work with Edgar Savisaar- after all a two party coalition would have a comfortable majority- or construct a weaker coalition with other parties.
All of that is still to come, in the meantime we can savour the moment- a Liberal Prime Minister, a Liberal Party winning the vote and the runner up being a member of LI too: more than 57% of the vote between these two parties and 60 MPs!
Palju onne Eesti Reformerakonna!