AP International

Estonia’s Parliament approves PM Kaja Kallas’ 3rd Cabinet

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia’s Parliament on Wednesday gave the green light to a new coalition to form a government, led by the center-right Reform Party of Kaja Kallas.

Her pro-business party overwhelmingly won the parliamentary election in the Baltic country on March 5 with 31.2% of the vote — receiving nearly twice as many votes as its closest rival, the far-right populist EKRE party, which will not be part of the government.

Lawmakers in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature voted 59-38 to accept the proposed three-party Cabinet, made up of the Reform Party, the centrist Estonia 200 party and the Social Democratic Party.

After weeks of intense talks, the three parties clinched a deal over the weekend to form a liberal-oriented coalition government to be led by prime minister-designate Kallas.

It will be Kallas’ third term as prime minister of Estonia, which is a member of both the European Union and NATO. She has led the country since January 2021, when she became the first female head of government in the nation of 1.3 million.

Addressing lawmakers on Tuesday, Kallas stressed that the coalition agreement includes the parties’ vision of the most important challenges facing the country.

The new government’s aim is “to ensure the all-round security of the Estonian state, to invest in the competitiveness and energy security of the Estonian economy, to implement green reforms together with the modernization of tax policy,” she said.

Despite scoring an impressive election win, Kallas — a 45-year-old lawyer and a former lawmaker at the European Parliament — needed junior partners to form a Cabinet that can govern with a comfortable majority for the next four years.

Together, the three parties hold 60 seats in Parliament.

In its program for government, the coalition pledged — among other things — to improve Estonia’s worsening government finances by raising taxes; to increase defense expenditure to 3% of GDP; to reform climate and energy policies; and to advocate policies to allow same-sex marriage in the former Soviet republic.

In addition to Kallas as prime minister, Reform is set to have six portfolios, including defense and finance, in the 13-member Cabinet.

Estonia 200, which is entering Parliament for the first time, and the Social Democrats will get three ministerial portfolios each. Estonia 200 will get the foreign ministry, to be led by Margus Tsahkna.

Defense and security will top the new Cabinet’s agenda, Kallas said over the weekend. Estonia has been a major supplier of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion started last year. Kallas has emerged as one of Europe’s most outspoken supporters of Kyiv.

Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

The government is due to be sworn in next week, once President Alar Karis has signed off on the appointments.

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This story has been corrected to show that the Reform party is set to have portfolios including defense and finance, not defense and technology. The spelling of the designated foreign minister’s name has also been corrected.

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