Estonian PM removes coalition partner from government

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By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) -Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas removed her junior coalition partner from government on Friday and proposed forming a new coalition with two smaller parties with the next election not scheduled until March 2023.

Kallas, who heads the centre-right Reform Party, took the decision after the centre-left Centre Party sided with the far-right opposition EKRE party to block government reform of primary education, national broadcaster ERR reported.

"The security situation in Europe does not give me any opportunity to continue cooperating with the Centre Party, which is unable to put Estonia's interests above those of its party and its various wings," Kallas said, as quoted by ERR.

Among the seven dismissed Centre Party ministers, which accounted for just under half of the 15-strong cabinet, was Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets, the president's spokesperson said.

Kallas ruled out working with EKRE, instead proposing forming a new government with the conservative Isamaa party and centre-left Social Democrats, which would hold a slim majority of 52 seats in the 101-seat parliament.

The new government needs to be in place before Kallas' meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, she said, according to ERR.

Kallas won the 2019 election but was outmanoeuvred by the Centre Party's Juri Ratas, who tapped EKRE and Isamaa to stay in power until that collation collapsed in early 2021.

The Reform Party has enjoyed a surge of popularity since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, with 35% support among voters in May, according to a Norstat poll, even as annual inflation soared to 19% in April, the highest in the euro zone.

The Centre Party, popular among Russian-speakers, has lost supporters and now stands at 16%, behind EKRE with 19%.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, editing by Terje Solsvik, Kirsten Donovan)

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