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Estonia: Two Parties Want To Form Government After Close Election

Tallinn, 3 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Two rival Estonian political parties say they each should have the right to form the next ruling coalition following a closely contested election in the Baltic country. The left-leaning Center Party narrowly won yesterday's election -- taking 25.4 percent of the vote against the center-right Res Publica party, which got 24.6 percent.

Each party will get 28 seats in the 101-seat parliament.

Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar and Res Publica leader Juhan Parts have each claimed the right to try to form the next government with the support of smaller parties. Res Publica has ruled out joining a coalition with the Center Party.

President Arnold Ruutel is charged with nominating the new prime minister, who normally would come from the party that received the most votes.

Estonia's parties generally agree on the country's pro-reform and pro-Western direction. The next government is expected to lead Estonia into both European Union and NATO membership in 2004.