Estonia's young guard ousted

Tallinn - Youthful liberals who earned Estonia a reputation for radical reforms have been swept from power by older, more cautious politicians, results from parliamentary elections showed yesterday.

A mix of former low-level Communists and farm leaders from the allied Coalition Party and Rural Union were the big winners in Sunday's poll, securing more than enough seats to lead in forming a new government. Free- market radicals in their twenties and thirties who have dominated the government in the former Soviet republic, fared badly and will be relegated to the sidelines.

After their electoral triumph, centre-left leaders bristled at suggestions that they would stray from the path of reform and lashed out at critics who depict them as Communists. "Even in Estonia there are artists who like to paint pictures that don't coincide with reality," Tiit Vahi, the Coalition Party leader and man likely to be the next prime minister, told a news conference.

Most leaders of the Coalition and Rural Union parties were not high-ranking Communists. The exception is Arnold Ruutel, 66, Estonia's last Soviet- era president.

Mr Vahi, 47, was a state company director in the Soviet era and then caretaker prime minister in 1992. He said he is committed to a free market but wants a stronger social safety net.

Projections showed the Coalition Party and Rural Union would win 41 of 101 legislative seats, a commanding lead over their closest rivals. The Centre Party, also regarded as centre-left, was expected to win 17 seats, and analysts said it would be a likely partner in a coalition government. The young radicals' Fatherland Party was projected to share seven seats with its election bloc partner, the Estonian Independence Party.

About 70 per cent of those eligible voted in what amounted to a generational clash, older voters backing centre-left parties and younger ones supporting reformers. The results showed Estonia fits the pattern set in Poland and Hungary, where reforms have been followed by the ousting of reformers. "The lesson from elections like this is that there's never a big window of opportunity for reform in ex-Communist nations," Vello Pettai, a political scientist in Tallinn, said.

Critics say the centre-left leaders could bust the Estonian budget if they act on promises such as increasing pensions. Others worry Estonia could lose its star reformer label, so throttling foreign investment.

President Lennart Meri seemed to warn against any big shifts in foreign or economic policy, saying: "We made our historic decisions and mankind does not have a better option to offer."

While the elderly and farmers accused the young radicals of ignoring them, foreign observers credited them with pulling Estonia from the wreckage of Communism. Growth is running at 5 per cent a year, and the country has the third highest level of per capita foreign investment in Eastern Europe.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A recent rise in net migration has been considered bad news for the Government
voicesYet when we talk about it, the national media goes into a frenzy, says Nigel Farage
Life and Style
Miracle muffin: chemicals can keep a muffin looking good at least a month after it was bought
food + drinkThe alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic