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Politics

Estonian premier Andrus Ansip signals departure

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has announced that he will be standing down from office early to make pave the way for a successor. The country is set to hold elections next year, with Ansip’s party polling badly.

Ansip announced on Sunday that he plans to stand down, and that he would tender the resignation of his government next week.

The resignation has long been anticipated; in 2012 Ansip announced that he would not seek another term in parliamentary elections next March.

In a speech before Estonia's Independence Day on Monday, Ansip said he felt it was wise to give up his post "because only that way people will have the opportunity to choose in 2015 for or against continuing the current (government) policies."

"I will submit my resignation request to the president on Shrove Tuesday (March 4)", Ansip said in his speech on national television.

"Everything has a beginning and an end," he said. "This decision wasn't done under pressure from anyone."

Party founder likely to take over

It is anticipated that any interim government that would continue Ansip's policies. President Toomas Hendrik is expected to nominate veteran politician Siim Kallas, from the outgoing premier's own Reform Party.

Having served nine years as head of government, 57-year-old Ansip is Estonia's longest serving prime minister.

The 65-year-old Kallas - founder of the Reform Party - works as the European Commission's vice president and transport commissioner, and has promised to return to Estonian politics after a decade working in Brussels.

One of the main tasks that Kallas faces is that of restoring his party's popularity, which has suffered badly among voters because of corruption and other scandals.

Although Ansip gave no indication of his own plans, it is expected that he will seek the post of Estonia's EU commissioner when Kallas becomes premier.

rc/ipj (AP,dpa, Reuters)