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Estonia: Opposition Parties Set To Form New Government

Tallinn, March 8 1999 (NCA) -- Estonia's national election commission says a group of three opposition parties has won a majority in yesterday's parliamentary elections. The national election commission said today that with 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Moderates, the Pro Patria Union, and the Reform Party had 53 seats in the 101-member parliament. The commission said they won 47.1 percent of the vote.

The Center Party of former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar and its allies, the Rural Union, had 35 seats together, with 30.7 percent of the vote. The Coalition Party of outgoing Prime Minister Mart Siimann picked up only seven seats and 7.6 percent of the vote. Many polls had predicted his party would not clear the 5 percent threshold needed for representation in parliament.

Savisaar said early this morning that nothing has been determined yet. But he said "I think the president should ask the leader of the winning party to form a government."

President Lennart Meri has two weeks to nominate a candidate for the post of prime minister, who then has two weeks to form a government, on which the parliament will then vote.

Electoral officials said voter turnout in the first half of the day was notably lower than four years ago, when it was 70 percent. With half of the vote counted, the turnout was 53 percent, and election officials were hoping it may reach 60 percent.

The 860,000 eligible voters were faced with 12 parties and 1,885 candidates, nearly 19 for each of the 101 parliamentary seats.