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Voters in Estonia Go to Polls Amid Tensions With Russia

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonians began voting Sunday in elections that are expected to return to power a right-left coalition, with little chance that the new government will rein in a surging economy to speed adoption of the euro.

Parties have flooded voters with pledges to cut taxes or boost wages and pensions. Estonia, technologically advanced enough to run the world's first Internet election, is one of the poorest European Union countries.

Opinion polls indicate that the left-leaning Center Party and center-right Reform Party, the core of the current coalition, will take most seats in an election overshadowed by increasing tensions with Russia.

"The most important things in this election are pensions, the tax system and financial support for children," said Alexander Drobnits, a pensioner, who voted for the Center Party in the town of Turi, 100 kilometers from Tallinn.

A poll in the Postimees newspaper Saturday predicted that the two parties would each win 29 to 32 seats in the 101-seat parliament.

Earlier polls have shown a new Reform-Center coalition would likely need a third party for a majority. Their current partner is the People's Union, the former farmers' party.

Polling stations opened at 9 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Results are expected near midnight.

Either Center Party head Edgar Savisaar or Reform Party head and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip could lead the new government after the first election since Estonia joined the EU and NATO in 2004.


(The Moscow Times 05.iii.07)

 
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