Siim Kallas, the Reform Party's candidate for prime minister, has bowed out, saying he will not form the next government because of what he called a smear campaign.
He announced the decision this morning after a meeting of the Reform Party board, just as the Reform Party representatives were due to head to Kadriorg for an 11:00 meeting with Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
"Since the moment that someone got it into their head that I could be the next prime minister of the Republic of Estonia, a media campaign was launched. It has become especially bad now. There is no reason to think this campaign won't continue," Kallas said in a media statement.
"A situation has arisen where instead of dealing with decisions that pertain to Estonian life, both my loyal assistants and I spend endless time countering accusations, suspicions, all sorts of questions, finally resulting in the opinion that the 'explanations were not sufficient,'" he said.
"A prime minister cannot work effectively in such a situation. It's a burden on the party, Cabinet and coalition partner."
Kallas said he believed that the Reform Party and Social Democrats could still form the next government based on the coalition-building talks to date.
Possible names floated by observers for prime minister include several of the Reform Party's "30-something" ministers, such as current Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, who is the most popular Reform Party figure among the public.
Kallas is currently serving as European Commissioner for Transport. He is also one of five vice-presidents of the 27-member “Barroso Commission,” named after its president, José Manuel Barroso, in which he is has focused on the work of the Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud Commission.
Kallas was prime minister between January 28, 2002, and April 10, 2003, taking over the office from Mart Laar. Kallas's successor was Juhan Parts.
He also has held positions as the Estonian Minister of Finance, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and member of the parliament. Kallas was a member and a former leader of the Reform Party. During the Soviet era, he was chairman of the Estonian Confederation of Trade Unions, and member of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union.