Papers: Change presidential election procedure now (5)

Kersti Kaljulaid after her election on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Siim Lõvi /ERR)
10/4/2016 9:10 AM
Category: News

Estonia’s papers wrote in their editorials on Tuesday that though Monday’s election was an impressive demonstration of unity in the Riigikogu, now was the time to change the procedure to elect the country’s head of state.

Kersti Kaljulaid was elected President of the Republic on Monday with 81 out of the Riigikogu’s 101 votes. As she had previously been nominated by 90 members of parliament, and as at 21 nominations needed for a candidate to run, there was nobody left to introduce a competitor, Kaljulaid was the only candidate in the election.

Monday’s election was the third attempt to choose a new head of state for Estonia, after both the Riigikogu and the electoral college did not live up to the task. Leading up to it, the parties’ parliamentary groups worked together to find a candidate a majority could agree on.

Daily Eesti Päevaleht wrote that while during the campaign this year, the consensus had been not to change the rules while the race was still on, but that now a president had been elected, it was time to change the procedure and deal with its shortcomings. If this wasn’t done right away, the country would run the risk that this debacle could repeat in five or ten years, the paper wrote.

Postimees wrote that blaming the new president for the shortcomings of the current system was pointless, and that instead the procedure needed to be changed that made it possible for the two preceding elections to fail so spectacularly.

“The Free Party has suggested to change the law in such a way that the blank ballot sheets no longer count and that candidate is elected president who gets the most votes in the second ballot round in the electoral college. This is the easiest way to avoid a repetition of this embarrassing mess, and without changing the power balance, which has so far worked rather well in Estonia,” Postimees wrote.

Business paper Äripäev wrote that though Kaljulaid might initially be vulnerable to attacks for the way she was elected, the new president had been chosen following the procedure set out in the law. And that the election would return to the Riigikogu if it failed in the electoral college was specified by the law.

“True, ‘elections’ with one candidate don’t seem particularly democratic. But again: This is still admissible according to current law. This is one reason to thoroughly review the election procedure. The other is that a president was elected that didn’t participate in any debate, which thanks to Siim Kallas’ bold announcement lasted for almost half a year. The accumulated moral capital of candidates that have gone through the debates certainly outweighs that of an individual agreed on as an emergency measure,” the paper wrote.

Äripäev agreed with the view expressed by the Free Party that empty ballot sheets should be made to count less, so that they couldn’t be used to upend the second ballot round in the electoral college, like it happened on Sept. 24 this year. This would increase the chance that a candidate who actually participated in the debates would get elected.

Õhtuleht pointed out that Kaljulaid now needed to work to retain her independence and cross-party appeal. She had been elected because the parties didn’t manage to see beyond their own interests, the paper wrote, and if Kaljulaid could manage to keep up this kind of independence, then ideally we would be looking at a two-term president.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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