Parties’ presidential candidates don’t agree on direct election of head of state

Candidates Reps, Jõks, and Kallas during Friday's debate (Rene Suurkaev / ERR)
8/15/2016 8:25 AM
Source: BNS
Category: News

Talking about the possibility of electing Estonia’s head of state directly, the parties’ presidential hopefuls expressed very different views. The debate took place at the annual Opinion Festival that happened in the town of Paide on Friday and Saturday last week.

Talking about the possibility of electing Estonia’s head of state directly, the parties’ presidential hopefuls expressed very different views. The debate took place at the annual Opinion Festival that happened in the town of Paide on Friday and Saturday last week.

President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) was the only participant to support the current procedure. Nestor said he liked the parliamentary system of government, and that with the current system the 101 members of the Riigikogu were less likely to make mistakes than a powerful single individual at the helm of the country. As part of this system, the current election procedure made sense.

The Reform Party’s honorary chairman and former EU commissioner Siim Kallas stated that having the president elected by a direct popular vote deserved to be considered, but that in such a case the authority and competencies of the president and the prime minister would need to be defined more precisely.

Allar Jõks, whose candidacy is backed by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) as well as the Free Party, said that though he used to be skeptical about electing the president directly, his views had changed. One shouldn’t be afraid of giving the voters this kind of power, he said, and that it was well within the voters’ rights to make mistakes as well and perhaps elect a less than ideal candidate. He added that a direct presidential election would help avoid backroom deals between the parties.

The Center Party’s Mailis Reps was firmly in favor of directly electing the president. Reps said that the ongoing administrative reform would irreversibly upset the balance in the electoral college in favor of members of parliament, and with it the political parties, as the number of electors will shrink drastically as a result of the ongoing parish mergers.

Mart Helme of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) missed the start of the debate because of a road accident on his way to Paide.

The president of Estonia is elected in parliament, where a candidate needs a two-thirds majority or 68 votes to get elected. If the Riigikogu is unable to elect the president in two attempts plus a run-off, the task is passed on to an electoral college made up of all 101 members of the Riigikogu as well as representatives of the country’s parishes.

The opening round of the 2016 presidential election in parliament is scheduled for Aug. 29.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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