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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Centrists Top Voting In Estonia

REUTERS -- TALLINN, Estonia


Former Estonian Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar's Center Party took the most votes in general elections but a centrist coalition clinched a narrow majority and is poised to freeze him out of negotiations to form a government.


Preliminary results from Sunday's vote showed the center-left Center Party will form the largest faction in the 101-seat Riigikogu, or parliament, with 28 seats. But the three allied centrist parties hold a combined 53 seats f and Reform with 18 each and the Moderates 17.


The Estonian election committee said Monday that it does not expect to release definitive preliminary results until Wednesday, though it expects no changes to the current seat allocations.


A committee official said votes were still being counted Monday morning, "though totals will probably only change by tens, and nothing that should change the outcome" of the election.


Once final official results are released March 17, President Lennart Meri will choose a party leader to try to form a government. But he has not hid his distaste for Savisaar's populist rhetoric and is under no obligation to designate the head of the largest party in parliament as prime minister.


"Nothing has been determined yet," Savisaar said Monday. "[But] I think the president should ask the leader of the winning party to form a government."


Rounding out the parliament will be the leftist Country People's Party with seven seats, Prime Minister Mart Siimann's Coalition Party also with seven and the pro-Russian United People's Party with six seats.


None of the remaining five parties and 19 independents finished above the minimum 5 percent of the vote required to gain entrance to parliament.


The centrist alliance, which is united in its dislike of the authoritarian Savisaar, said it was likely to turn to the Coalition Party to build a solid majority, leaving Siimann's party in Cabinet, although taking his post away.


Though much was at stake in the vote, the country's third since regaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, estimates by the election committee showed turnout down to about 55 percent from 70 percent in 1995.