Estonian party start talks with populists despite promise

Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Mart Helme speaks at the headquarters after parliamentary elections in Tallinn, Estonia, early Monday, March 4, 2019. The tiny Baltic nation of Estonia has become the last country to see its political landscape reshaped by the surging popularity of a far-right populist party that has capitalized on anxieties about national survival in an age of globalism. (AP Photo/Tanel Meos)
Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party party gestures at her party headquarters after parliamentary elections in Tallinn, Estonia, early Monday, March 4, 2019. The rival Reform and Center parties, the two main political groupings since Estonia regained independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, shared an election goal of keeping EKRE from making inroads. (AP Photo/Raul Mee)

HELSINKI — A senior Estonian politician has resigned from the Center Party's leadership to protest a decision to start government formation talks with a euroskeptic populist party that made big gains in last week's general election — despite promises not to talk with them. 

Raimond Kaljulaid said Tuesday the Center Party and the nationalist, anti-immigration Estonian Conservative People's Party, EKRE, have different values and called its economic program "absurd."

EKRE came in third in the March 3 election with 17.8 percent of votes.

Caretaker Prime Minister Juri Ratas' Center Party turned to EKRE on Monday after refusing formation talks with the center-right Reform Party.

In the election, the Reform Party became Estonia's largest party but failed to win a majority while the Centrists were runner-ups. Both had excluded cooperation with EKRE.

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