A record 27 women elected to the Estonian parliament

This year, the International Women’s Day came five days earlier than the traditional date – on the basis of the election results, it can be said the 27 mandates out of 101 given to women are a record of all the elections after Estonia regained its independence.

Moreover, for the first time, a woman, Kaja Kallas, will hopefully become prime minister of Estonia, as the candidate who received most votes and the leader of the party that won the election.

Although the composition of each parliament changes over four years and therefore the proportion of women in the last composition rose to 27% last summer – as a result of the post-election distribution of seats – female politicians have never received so many seats in the Estonian parliament. In fact, this picture has remained sadly unchanged for the past fifteen years.

To be precise – while we proudly count Estonia’s positions at the top of the charts of economic indicators, competitiveness, and freedoms – we have not been able to change the gender balance of the parliament composition for fifteen years. In 2003, women were given 19 mandates, in 2007, they were given 24 mandates, in 2011, 20 mandates and in 2015, 24 mandates. Although there is no coalition yet and the verification of votes is still in progress, one thing is certain – the election that have just ended put an end to the stagnation in this issue.

In particular, I would like to highlight the following results based on the recent elections and statistics for the last fifteen years:

  • Although the Social Democrats made a step back as a whole (they lost five seats out of 15 they had in the last parliament – editor), they achieved the best result in terms of empowering women, ending up with five mandates for women and five mandates for men. It was the now-defunct party, the People’s Union of Estonia, that was the last to make a 50/50 composition, after the 2007 election (three women out of six seats). The Social Democrats have also been the most gender-balanced party in the parliament for the past fifteen years, with an average of 31% of women.
  • The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), with a zero in the previous composition, finally scored with two mandates for women. It is worth noting, however, that this is only 11% of their mandates and they drastically lower the balance of the entire composition.
  • Of the Reform Party’s mandates, 32% went to women, and of the mandates of the Centre Party, respectively, 31% went to women. Over the years, however, the Centre Party has been stronger in the representation of women, with an average of 29% since 2003. Although the Reform Party has made good progress in the last two elections, in previous years the share of men in the parliament was so much higher than their average ends up being just 22%.
  • However, the Isamaa (Fatherland) party should have a serious look in the mirror – the average percentage of women in the fifteen years is 10%, which is the lowest figure when considering the political parties that have made it to the parliament or given consecutive compositions. After the parliamentary election in 2003, they also belonged to the “no mandate for women” club like EKRE in 2015.
  • The result of Kaja Kallas, the leader of the Reform Party, is the best female politician’s election result ever.
  • The 101 mandates of the 2019 Riigikogu elections were distributed with 321,040 votes, of which 85,023 or 26.5% voted for women.
  • Six of the 27 women elected to the Riigikogu were elected for the first time.

Progress has been proven, but should we be happy with this picture? Following the last Swedish parliamentary election, the mandates were distributed to 188 men and 161 women, respectively, ie 46% of women were elected.

We have a long way to go. The next yardstick will be the composition of the new government.

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Cover: Kaja Kallas, the leader of the Reform Party, achieved the best female politician’s election result ever in Estonia, with over 20,000 votes (photo by Ronet Tänav). The opinions in this article are those of the author. 

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About the author: Annika Arras

Annika Arras is the founder and managing director of Miltton Nordics, a governmental relations and corporate communications agency. Previously she worked as the campaign director of the Estonian Reform Party where she managed to win three national elections in a row.