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Estonian PM faces confidence vote after coalition collapses

TALLINN (AFP) – 

Estonia’s Prime Minister Taavi Roivas on Tuesday refused to step down a day after his three-party coalition collapsed, opting instead to face a confidence vote in parliament, reports said.

The small Baltic eurozone and NATO member that is due to assume the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2017 plunged into political chaos on Monday.

Two junior coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats SDE and conservative IRL party, demanded Roivas resign, ending cooperation with his centre-right Reform party amid disputes over his leadership.

Both also began coalition talks with an opposition party. The confidence vote is set for Wednesday, according to public broadcaster ERR.

ERR quoted Roivas, 37, Tuesday as saying he would not step down “quietly”, but admitted the coalition 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”.

With his Reform commanding just 30 seats in the 101-seat parliament analysts in Tallinn said it was highly unlikely Roivas could survive.

Forty-one members of the opposition also lodged a no confidence motion against him on Monday while the Social Democrats, who command 15 seats, confirmed Tuesday they would back the opposition move.

Fifty-one votes are needed to force the government to resign, according to ERR.

SDE deputy leader Andres Anvelt told the public broadcaster Tuesday that Roivas has created “this unprecedented situation where the coalition partners essentially expressed their no confidence… and he wants to play for time.”

“We have to go along with the opposition’s vote of no confidence,” he added.

Social Democratic leader Jevgeni Ossinovski 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 Estonia’s second largest political party and is popular among the small Baltic state’s sizeable ethnic Russian minority.

Estonian political analyst Ahto Lobjakas told AFP that should Ratas become prime minister, he would “stick to current foreign policy”, meaning Estonia would remain firmly rooted in NATO, the EU and the eurozone.

© 2016 AFP