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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Estonians Heading to Polls on Sunday

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonians will vote in a parliamentary election Sunday amid increased tensions with Russia and little chance that an expected new right-left coalition will take measures to speed up adoption of the euro before 2010.

Polls ahead of the March 4 vote predict that the broadly left-leaning Center Party and the right-of-center Reform Party, the core of the current coalition, will form a new government, though the Center Party might this time provide the prime minister.

"It is pretty likely to be Savisaar," Tartu University political scientist Vello Pettai said, referring to Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar as likely new head of government for the Baltic state, a European Union and NATO member since 2004.

Savisaar was first prime minister after Estonia split from the Soviet Union in 1991, but lost the post in 1992. He later became interior minister, but quit in disgrace in 1995 amid allegations he had secretly taped political rivals.

Reform Party leader and current Prime Minister Andrus Ansip formed a government with the Center Party last year. The People's Union is third, and most junior, coalition member.

A Savisaar government could tone down the liberal tax-cut plans backed by Ansip for Estonia, which grew 11 percent each quarter since late 2005, but where inflation, 5 percent in January, has delayed euro adoption to 2010 at the earliest.

Savisaar has campaigned on pledges to raise wages for public sector workers under the slogan "A rich state, a better salary."

The party has also previously backed replacing the current flat tax, which is seen as one of the foundations of its economic success, with a progressive tax. But analysts said it had toned down this message.

Ansip has vowed to make Estonia one of the five wealthiest EU countries by 2015, and to reduce income tax eventually to 18 percent from the current 23 percent.

The recent tensions with Russia were sparked when nationalists in the parliament, also backed by Ansip, passed legislation to move a World War II bronze statue of a Red Army soldier out of the center of Tallinn.

Russia, in some of its strongest criticism of Estonia in years, called the plan blasphemous to the memories of the fighters of fascism. Some Estonians see the statue merely as a reminder of 50 years of Soviet rule.

Analysts said parties had raised the issue of the statue and other touchy historical problems from the Soviet past in order to mobilize nationalist-minded Estonians to vote for them.

Reiner Kattel, political scientist at Tallinn Technical University, said the strategy could backfire.

"There is not a very clear nationalist position on this soldier. Some people are saying, 'Don't mess with it,'" he said.

The position of the Center Party may also have been strengthened by the bronze soldier issue. It is seen as being more friendly towards Russia than other parties and may win support from the about 100,000 Russian speakers who have the right to vote in the election.

The rest of the 300,000 Russian speakers are either citizens of Russia or are so-called non-citizens, without the right to vote in national parliamentary elections.

One issue more or less absent from the campaign is the euro, partly because the kroon currency is already pegged to it and because it is widely believed the adoption of the single currency would come eventually. But political scientist Pettai said the pressure on a new government could mount when the 2010 date approached.