Estonia's Reform Party picks its first female leader

HELSINKI - Estonia's largest political party has chosen a new leader, its third one in four years, as it seeks to restore popularity and mend its tarnished image among voters ahead of a parliamentary election next year.

Party delegates for the centre-right Reform Party voted Saturday to elect Kaja Kallas. The 40-year-old lawyer and lawmaker at the European Parliament will be the first female leader of a major political party in the Baltic country.

Previous chairman Hanno Pevkur said in December he would step down after less than a year in the post.

Kallas is the daughter of former Estonian prime minister and European Commissioner Siim Kallas, who was one of the founders of the Reform Party in the 1990s.

The Reform Party was the top vote-getter in the 2015 election and part of every Estonian government between 1999 and 2016. It held the prime minister's post for 11 years between 2005 and 2016 but it saw its popularity wane due to several political scandals. It went into the opposition following a government crisis in late 2016.

Estonia will hold its next election in March 2019.

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