The global impact of Estonia’s next president (2)

No matter who gets elected on Aug. 29, they will have a hard time filling Toomas Hendrik Ilves' shoes. During Ilves' time in office, Estonia has taken an enormous leap forward in terms of foreign recognition and popularity (AFP/Scanpix)
By Matthew Crandall
8/22/2016 9:00 AM
Category: News

Leading up to the presidential election in the Riigikogu on Aug. 29, ERR News will analyze each prospective presidential candidate’s international influence as president of Estonia. Six contenders will be profiled: Mailis Reps, Eiki Nestor, Siim Kallas, Allar Jõks, Marina Kaljurand, and Mart Helme.

Foreign relations are influenced by a whole web of factors, including the many institutional ties that bind Estonia to its commitments and allies. While the Estonian president does not have the power of executives in presidential systems, one should not underestimate the impact a president can have.

The Estonian president has a powerful impact representing the country both domestically and internationally. It is the international influence that has not been highlighted sufficiently in the media despite its relevance.

Estonia’s upcoming presidential election comes as Estonia is at a crossroads, faced with domestic and international challenges alike. The commonality among the challenges is uncertainty. To what extent will Putin go to satisfy his international ambitions? What will the future of the EU be now that the UK has decided to leave? Can NATO still be counted on if Donald Trump wins the US presidency? Will Estonia be able to manage with future inflows of refugees and migrants? Will those who are not ethnic Estonians (who make up almost a third of the population) continue to feel welcome in an era of rising nationalism?

Given the international challenges that Estonia faces and given the interplay between foreign and domestic challenges, it is critical that the next president is up to the task. Gone are the days when the office of the president could be considered a retirement post. The image and good standing of Estonia in the eyes of the international community will largely depend on the next president.

The profiles of the main six candidates will highlight the importance of foreign affairs as well as further the debate about who the most qualified candidate should be. ERR News will publish a new profile every day from Monday to Saturday this week. The series starts with today’s analysis of the Center Party’s candidate, MP Mailis Reps.

Matthew Crandall is an international relations lecturer at Tallinn University.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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