Members of the Reform Party and supporters of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (center) pose for photo in Tallinn, Estonia, March 5, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

TALLINN – The Reform party of Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas secured first place in Sunday's parliamentary election, a result that should ensure Tallinn remains one of Europe's most staunchly pro-Kyiv governments.

Results with 98 percent ballots counted showed the far-right EKRE party in second place, with 16.1 percent versus 31.5 percent for Kallas' liberal group, reflecting concerns among some voters over the rising cost of living in the wake of Ukraine conflict.

If Kaja Kallas succeeds in crafting a functioning coalition, it would cement the Baltic nation's pro-European direction

If Kallas, 45, succeeds in crafting a functioning coalition, it would cement the Baltic nation's pro-European direction.

Estonia, a western neighbor of Russia with a population of 1.3 million, would also stay on course to adopt more green energy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine.

Kallas said the election left her party in a strong position to form a coalition government that would keep up calling for pressure on Russia.

"We … have to invest in our security, our aggressive neighbor has not vanished and will not vanish, so we have to work with that", she told reporters at a central Tallin hotel where party supporters gathered for the evening.

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Reform won an election in 2019 but was then kept from power as three smaller parties formed a government. It collapsed in 2021, allowing Kallas to create a coalition and take charge.

Throughout the campaign, EKRE have promised to slash energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy and to stop accepting new Ukrainian conflict refugees.

The party also criticized the extent of Kallas' policy of sending weapons to Ukraine, saying it did not take into account the country's own defense needs.

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Turnout was 63.7 percent, in line with the previous election, and with 51 percent of votes cast by internet, including Kallas.