Estonia's Ratas wins confidence vote to continue as PM

Tallinn (AFP) –


Estonia's outgoing prime minister Juri Ratas, leader of the left-leaning Centre Party, on Wednesday won a vote of confidence in parliament to form a new coalition government with the conservatives and far-right.

Ratas now has a week to present his cabinet line-up to the president after 55 lawmakers voted for him and 44 against in the Baltic EU member's 101-seat parliament.

President Kersti Kaljulaid tasked him with forming a government after her first choice Kaja Kallas -- leader of the liberal Reform Party that won last month's general election -- lost a vote of confidence on Monday.

Ratas, whose Centre Party came in second in the March 3 ballot and is backed by the Russian-speaking minority, declined Kallas's invitation to hold coalition talks.

Instead the party signed a coalition agreement with the conservative Isamaa and the far-right EKRE that gives them 56 seats in parliament.

Around 40 people protested in front of the parliament against the prospect of a government with politicians from the eurosceptic EKRE, which is known for its populist rhetoric and anti-migrant stance.

Last month, EKRE party leader Mart Helme threatened riots should he fail to secure a coalition deal with Ratas's Centre and Isamaa.

EU Council president Donald Tusk immediately sent Ratas a letter Wednesday to congratulate him on his "second term as prime minister".

"I am happy to learn that your coalition intends to follow the same trajectory in European, foreign and security policy that Estonia has been on for many years now," Tusk added.

Bread-and-butter issues such as taxation and public spending dominated the March general election in the 1.3 million-strong country known for its IT savvy and the eurozone's lowest debt-to-GDP ratio.