Sa, 28.01.2023

Preliminary results in for the 2021 local elections

Preliminary results in for the 2021 local elections
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The leader of the Center Party Jüri Ratas and the current chairman of the Tallinn City Council Tiit Terik closely monitored the election results.
The leader of the Center Party Jüri Ratas and the current chairman of the Tallinn City Council Tiit Terik closely monitored the election results. Photo: Tairo Lutter

Sunday marked polling day of the 2021 local government council elections in Estonia. Preliminary results put voter turnout at 54.7 percent, with record 275,587 votes cast electronically between Monday and Saturday. People supported election coalitions in most of Estonia’s 79 local governments, with Center proving the most successful political party but losing its absolute majority in Tallinn.

A total of 275,587 people voted electronically in the 2021 local government council elections - a new record since 186,034 e-votes cast in 2017. University of Tartu political scientist Mihkel Solvak said that past elections have shown that e-votes do not really affect the election result as voters who do not trust the system turn up to vote at polling stations.

Political analyst Kristjan Vassil said that participating in e-voting also does not affect vote distribution. “Electronic voting is neutral and does not have the potential to boost a particular party’s vote yield,” he said. There were a couple of glitches, including people’s browsers with Google Translate switched to the always on setting translating names of candidates on the elections website, while none of these had any impact on the results, head of the National Electoral Service Arne Koitmäe said. The outdated design of the voting application people needed to download was also criticized.

The e-voting result has, unsurprisingly, been challenged by the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) that has long claimed the system to be untrustworthy.

Total voter turnout in the 2021 local elections came to 54.7 percent. It was highest in Jõgeva County (59.3 percent) and lowest in Ida-Viru County (47.2 percent), with 39.4 percent of voters voting in advance polls from Monday through Saturday. Voter turnout was 53.3 percent for the 2017 local elections, 58 percent in 2013 and 60.6 percent in 2009.

The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) gained the most ground nationwide compared to four years ago, winning the city of Pärnu, as well as Järva, Põlva and Räpina municipalities. The party came in fourth nationwide, taking a total of 77,330 votes. EKRE won Pärnu with 24.1 percent of the vote, ahead of the Reform Party (20.6 percent) and election coalition Pärnu Unites (19.9 percent). The conservatives beat the Center Party by a hair in Järva Municipality (24 percent vs 23.9 percent) and were similarly marginally ahead of Reform in Põlva Municipality and election coalition United Parish in Räpina Municipality.

Political newcomers Eesti 200 also put in a solid showing, securing council seats in Tallinn and Tartu and taking third place with 15.9 percent of the vote in the latter. Eesti 200 and EKRE both took 9.5 percent of the vote in the capital, with the latter looking at eight and the former seven mandates. Eesti 200 leader Kristina Kallas got 2,779 votes, the party’s Tallinn mayor candidate Marek Reinaas 1,909 and Margus Tsahkna 1,501 votes.

The Center Party was once again most popular nationwide (24.4 percent) also winning the capital Tallinn (45.4 percent). However, the party did not manage to secure enough mandates to continue ruling alone in Tallinn. Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart was the most popular candidate in the capital and nationwide, taking 27,737 votes in the Lasnamäe electoral district. Nevertheless, Kõlvart described Center’s result as a loss and said he awaits a grand coalition that would send his party to the opposition.

Isamaa took fifth place overall, ahead of Eesti 200 and after the Reform Party, winning Kohila, Jõgeva, Muhu, Viljandi and Elva municipalities. The Social Democratic Party (SDE) lost a lot of ground compared to 2017, taking only Hiiumaa Municipality and the city of Võru. People in most of Estonia’s 79 local governments elected election coalitions to run them.

Political scientist Tõnis Mölder said that the preliminary election results hold no great surprises and that forecasts based on length of lists of candidates proved largely accurate. The nationwide result of Isamaa was perhaps the biggest surprise as their comprehensive candidates lists in Tallinn suggested they might take more votes than they did, Mölder said. He added that Center did somewhat better and EKRE worse than forecast in Tallinn, while the deviation was still minimal. Mölder said that EKRE and Eesti 200 emergence as the winners in the context of the previous local elections, Isamaa managed to stand its ground, while Center and Reform have lost some. One reason SDE lost the most votes compared to the 2017 elections is the fact many of its members ran in election coalitions. Mölder described the local elections as a prelude to 2023 Riigikogu elections, saying that the more successful parties were at mobilizing their local organizations, the better their chances moving into parliamentary elections.

More precise data is available at the website. All results are preliminary and subject to change as votes are recounted by city and rural municipality electoral committees on Monday. E-votes will also be counted again.