Estonia’s anti-EU far-right party EKRE struck a coalition deal with the Centre party of PM Jüri Ratas in a controversial bid to block the liberal Reform party from forming a government.

Having stepped down as prime minister, Ratas, who leads the runner-up centre-left party, approved the coalition with leaders of the far-right EKRE party and the Isamaa conservatives.

It commands a 56 seat-majority in the 101-seat parliament that will allow it to win a confidence vote.

“We will prove with our actions that the government of the Centre Party, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and Isamaa stands for the comprehensive development of Estonia,” Ratas, who is now likely to return to office, told reporters in Tallinn on Saturday.

The deal means the far-right is poised to enter government for the first time in the Baltic state that broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, a move that has stirred public outcry including street protests.

EKRE leader Mart Helme has publicly expressed xenophobic, sexist and homophobic views, and the members of his party have included people convicted of violent crimes and Nazi sympathizers.

News of Ratas’s coalition talks with EKRE sparked a backlash from Estonia’s small Jewish community last month.

“Many statements of this party (EKRE) are antagonistic toward national minorities and aim at dividing society into insiders and outsiders. This can only cause frustration and regret,” the Jewish Community of Estonia said in a statement on March 18.
There are about 1,950 Jews living in Estonia.