In August 1940 Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union and for nearly 50 years was ruled under a communist system.
By 1989 a mass movement of independence activists had started registering people on the basis of their 1940 status which led to elections in February 1990 of the Congress of Estonia. The Congress consisted of 499 delegates from 31 parties.
On 18th March 1990 the first free parliamentary elections since the 1930s were held to the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR. The result gave the Estonian Popular Front 43 seats, the Communist Party (Free Estonia) 27 seats, the Joint Council of Work Collectives 25 seats and Independents 10 seats in this 105 seat assembly.
It was this new parliament which, on 20th August 1991 declared the Republic of Estonia following the Estonian state’s repudiation of the absorption of the country by the USSR in 1940. This was recognised by the USSR State Council on 6th September 1991.
In September 1991 a Constitutional Assembly was formed which contained equal numbers of the old parliament, the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR, and the Congress of Estonia. A new constitution was worked out and approved in a referendum in June 1992.
On 20th September 1992 a general election was held which elected a 101 seat parliament led by the Fatherland Alliance (which, along with others, would become Pro Patria).
The next general election was in 1995 and this saw a further coalition of parties take power. In 1999 a further election took place with yet more changes, but the Centre Party, Reform Party and Fatherland Union (Pro Patria) came to the fore.
In 2003 the Estonian Centre Party (K) took the most seats (28), with the Union for the Republic (Res Publica) also taking 28 seats. The Estonian Reform Party (RE) took 19 seats, the Estonian People’s Union (ERL) took 13 and Pro Patria took 7 seats. Juhan Parts of the Res Publica Party went on to form a new government which included the Reform Party and the People’s Union of Estonia (now dissolved).
In 2005 Juhan Parts stepped down as Prime Minister after a no confidence vote against his Minister of Justice and he was replaced by Andrus Ansip of the Reform Party.
In 2007, the centre-right Estonian Reform Party (RE) had a spectacular election and won an additional 12 seats to take them to 31 seats. The Estonian Centre Party took 29 seats (+1) and, what had become the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica (IRL) (the merged Fatherland and Union for the Republic parties), took 19 seats (-16). Andrus Ansip was able to consolidate his victory and his centre-right Reform Party formed a coalition with the centre-right IRL and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDE) which had won 10 seats (+4).
The 2007 election was notable as the first nationwide election in the world to use electronic voting via the internet. Just over 30,000 Estonians used the new system.
In 2011 the Reform Party did well again, gaining an extra two seats and the IRL took an extra four seats which meant that the two centre-right parties were able to govern alone.
In 2014 Andrus Ansip stepped down as Prime Minister after nine successful years. He went on to become the European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market. Ansip was succeeded by Taavi Rõivas who took the Reform Party into the 2015 general election.
Although Reform dropped three seats in 2015 they were still the largest party with 30 seats in the 101 seat Riigikogu. Taavi Rõivas was invited to form a new government by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Rõivas eventually sealed a deal between his Reform Party, the IRL and the Social Democrats to give the new government 59 seats in the 101 seat parliament.
The President is elected by Parliament for a five year term.
The Parliament (Riigikogu) is a unicameral chamber of 101 members elected for 4 years by popular vote.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Estonia at 22nd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 70 (where 100 is least corrupt).