Taavi Roivas Estonian PM faces confidence vote after coalition collapses

"Estonia is a democratic state and it is time for the prime minister to recognise that the coalition has folded."

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Estonia's Prime minister Taavi Roivas will face a parliamentary confidence vote on November 9, 2016 play

Estonia's Prime minister Taavi Roivas will face a parliamentary confidence vote on November 9, 2016

(AFP/File)
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Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas on Tuesday refused to step down a day after his three-party coalition collapsed, and now faces a confidence vote in parliament that he is unlikely to survive, local media said.

Amid the political chaos, party leaders on course to form the next government vowed that the Baltic state would remain firmly rooted in the eurozone and NATO as it gears up to assume the EU's rotating presidency in the second half of 2017.

With his Reform party commanding just 30 seats in the 101-member parliament, Roivas's fate appeared to be sealed Tuesday when leaders of the five other parties in parliament gave him an ultimatum: step down or be voted out.

"We are calling upon the prime minister to step down himself by 2 pm (Wednesday) at the latest," they said in a joint statement quoted by public broadcaster ERR.

"Otherwise the head of government will be faced with five political parties' joint motion of no confidence, which is unprecedented.

"Estonia is a democratic state and it is time for the prime minister to recognise that the coalition has folded."

The confidence vote is set for Wednesday, according to ERR.

It also quoted Roivas, 37, as vowing Tuesday he would not leave "quietly", but admitted the coalition forged in April 2015 was "finished".

Roivas added that he wanted to "look members of the Riigikogu (parliament) in the eye when they vote in favour of moving to the left".

Two junior coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats SDE and the conservative IRL party, demanded Roivas resign on Monday, ending cooperation with his centre-right Reform party amid disputes over his leadership. Both also began coalition talks with an opposition party.

Pro-EU and NATO

IRL leader Margus Tsahkna said Tuesday that "the change of coalition will not affect Estonia's course on foreign and defence policy".

"Estonia is grateful to our NATO allies and will continue the course of pro-European Union and be NATO orientated despite the change of government," Tsahkna told AFP via an email Tuesday.

Social Democratic leader Jevgeni Ossinovski, 30, told ERR Monday that he saw Juri Ratas, a deputy speaker of parliament and the freshly elected head of the opposition Centre party, as Estonia's next prime minister.

Commanding 27 seats, the Centre party is popular among the sizeable ethnic Russian minority who account for a quarter of Estonia's 1.3 million people.

Ratas replaced Edgar Savisaar, 66, whose perceived ties to Russia scared off potential coalition partners amid heightened tensions with Moscow.

NATO leaders endorsed plans in July to rotate troops into Estonia and the other Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, to reassure them they would not be left in the lurch if Russia was tempted to repeat its 2014 Ukraine intervention.

Since then, the Kremlin has stepped up its military presence in its Soviet-era backyard in the Baltic Sea area and its jets frequently test the airspace of small NATO allies such as Estonia.

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