Presidential election: Just one candidate, plenty of guesswork so far (1)
While Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) stressed on Monday that his party hadn't chosen a candidate yet, commentators think that it might make current Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand (independent) its choice. But everybody agrees that there are more than two contenders.
Kallas wouldn’t have come forward if he didn’t have at least the support of his own party, sociologist and political commentator Juhan Kivirähk said to ERR on Monday. Kivirähk sees Kallas as the Reform Party’s most likely presidential candidate.
Popular with the people: Marina Kaljurand
Another potential Reform Party candidate is current Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand (Independent). A survey conducted for Eesti Päevaleht revealed on Tuesday that 31% of the Estonian people would like to see Kaljurand as their next president. Kallas, in comparison, was less popular.
Kaljurand had the media’s attention, Kivirähk said, and her popularity among the public was based on just that. Also, she had the advantage of being virtually untainted in political terms, while Kallas had been in politics in Estonia as well as abroad for decades.
Kivirähk said he thought that Siim Kallas would eventually become the Reform Party’s candidate, especially considering his experience as well as potential deals in parliament, but this could depend a lot on the election itself.
“Often the candidate that eventually becomes president isn’t chosen by the Riigikogu, but by the electoral college, so there are different tactics. As Siim Kallas has now taken such a bold step forward and come out as the first candidate, I believe that work is being done to get him elected by the Riigikogu,” Kivirähk said.
Kivirähk also pointed out that there had been times where whole parties refused to take part in a presidential election. In 2006, both the Center Party and Rahvaliit (now part of EKRE) refused to join the session, as they were afraid that some of their MPs might vote for candidates Ene Ergma (IRL) or Toomas Hendrik Ilves (SDE), who was then chosen by the electoral college. The parties would follow the situation in detail and adapt their tactics according to the direction the election might take.
Other potential candidates
“The candidates that are introduced early will certainly be in a stronger position,” Kivirähk said. He also stressed that one had to take more than just two popular names into account, and add potential candidates like Edgar Savisaar and Indrek Tarand to the situation.
Political analyst Andreas Kaju said to ERR on Monday that Kallas’ chances of getting enough support to be elected in the Riigikogu were slim. It was only common sense to think that neither the Center Party nor the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) would support a politician they could easily call a candidate of the system, Kaju said.
Other potential candidates mentioned by various politicians and commentators are Estonian diplomat and former minister Jüri Luik for IRL, former ambassador to Russia Mart Helme for EKRE, and current ambassador to Sweden Jaak Jõerüüt.
The President of Estonia is elected by the Riigikogu for a five-year term. If no candidate reaches a supermajority of two thirds of the Riigikogu’s votes in three balloting rounds, the election is postponed, and a special electoral college is convened. The electoral college is made up of the Riigikogu’s members as well as representatives of Estonia’s local governments.
This year’s presidential election has been scheduled provisionally for Aug. 29 and 30. If the Riigikogu shouldn’t be able to agree on a candidate, Sept. 24 is the date set for the convention of the electoral college.