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Estonia's pro-Russia Center Party picks a new leader

Associated Press Associated Press 5/11/2016

TALLINN, Estonia — Estonia's second largest political party, which is popular among the Baltic country's sizeable ethnic Russian minority, has chosen a new leader.

Juri Ratas will replace Edgar Savisaar, who founded the opposition Center Party 25 years ago.

Party delegates elected Ratas, a 38-year-old former Tallinn mayor and deputy speaker of Parliament, in a 654-348 vote Saturday, after Savisaar announced he was stepping down following internal opposition.

Savisaar created the party in 1991 when Estonia became independent from Soviet rule. The 66-year-old former prime minister kept close ties with Moscow, making his party a pariah in Estonian politics but popular among ethnic Russians, who make up a quarter of Estonia's 1.3 million people.

Last year the Center Party got 24.8 percent of the vote but it's not part of Estonia's three-party coalition government.

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