The Latest: Estonian opposition leader derides govt policies

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The Latest on Estonia’s general election (all times local):

1:50 p.m.
The leader of Estonia’s main opposition party has voted in the general election and accused Prime Minister Juri Ratas‘ government of “messing up” the small Baltic nation’s taxation system.

Estonians are voting Sunday in a general election where the opposition center-right Reform Party is challenging Ratas’ left-leaning Center Party with a focus on socio-economic issues, such as taxation.

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas told The Associated Press while voting in central Tallinn that “the topic that most people talk about are the taxes” and that Ratas’ Cabinet “has totally messed (up) the tax system, excise duties, income tax system and people are really annoyed by this.”

Among other things, Ratas’ government has substantially increased excise duties on alcohol, partly on health grounds, and reformed Estonia’s flat income tax, a cornerstone of the economy. Estonia has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths in Europe.

9 a.m.
Estonians have started voting in a parliamentary election in the small Baltic nation in a ballot where Prime Minister Juri Ratas and his Center Party are pitted against the center-right opposition Reform Party and where populists are seen making inroads.

Sunday’s vote in the NATO and the European Union member of 1.3 million comes as the far-right, nationalist Estonian Conservative People’s Party, EKRE, has substantially increased its popularity since the 2015 election.

Both main contenders wish to keep it at bay.
Nearly a million voters are eligible to elect representatives for the next four years to the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature.

About 26 percent have previously cast their votes online. Electronic voting pioneer Estonia was the first country in the world to use online balloting for a national election in 2005.

By Associated Press