Council of Elders proposes Kersti Kaljulaid for president (8)
Following two days of deliberations, the Riigikogu's Council of Elders convened once more at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, after which President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor announced that the council had chosen European Court of Auditors member and Foresight Advisory Council Chairman Kersti Kaljulaid as their candidate for the upcoming round of presidential elections to be held on Monday, Oct. 3.
"We have proposed to Kersti Kaljulaid that she be [our] candidate in the Riigikogu on Oct. 3," Nestor announced following the council meeting. "We wish her the best of luck and believe that Estonia will have a president by next Tuesday."
"This is a huge responsibility, but I accept it," said Kaljulaid at the press conference. "I will accept the responsibility of meeting with parliamentary group chairmen and then we'll see what happens. I won't regret this decision."
Kaljulaid will meet with parliamentary group chairmen on Wednesday, and according to Nestor, her final degree of support should be clear by Wednesday night. "Kaljulaid's support base is enough to be here before you today at a press conference," Nestor clarified.
"The first consideration was yesterday — that the goal is to elect a president on Monday," Nestor explained. "Next, we evaluated what opportunities existed. The [current] situation is unlike anything ever before; the situation is complicated for all of those people with whom the parties have spoken and who has been spoken about in the media and elsewhere."
The President of the Riigikogu pointed out, however, that the Council of Elders' unique peculiarity was the fact that it is made up of just six members, and that they were attempting to reach a good, consensus result between everyone, regardless of whether they had seven or 30 MPs representing them in the Riigikogu.
Parliamentary groups express support
Center MP Arvo Sarapuu believes that the entire Center Party Parliamentary Group will rally behind Kaljulaid. Ratas, however, stated that apparently every single parliamentary group member didn't support the new candidate. "I believe that most are behind Kaljulaid," Ratas noted. "There won't be 27 votes, but most are."
"I'm willing to say that Kaljulaid has the support of the entire Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) Parliamentary Group," said IRL MP Priit Sibul.
Reform MP Igor Gräzin commented on the Council of Elders' decision, saying, "They finally arrived at a candidate without a partisan background."
Conservatie People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Parliamentary Group Chairman Martin Helme said that his partymates are not thrilled, however Kaljulaid can count on their support. "[She'll get] six or seven votes; it isn't important right now," he noted.
Jüri Luik and Kersti Kaljulaid named as candidates
Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) MP Siim Kiisler had told ERR earlier that among the candidates named were Kersti Kaljulaid and diplomat and Centre for Defence Studies director Jüri Luik.
Kiisler noted that there could not be an imposing atmosphere at the moment, and that nobody could be made appealing by force. "We must understand that even if someone is very pressured, then everyone is alone with their ballot at the ballot box," explained Kiisler. "Because of this, the [council's] candidate must truly be acceptable to all," he continued, warning that otherwise they would be caught in a predicament once again.
Center Party Parliamentary Group member Peeter Ernits admitted that their own parliamentary group was divided on the issue. "Not just our parliamentary group," added Ernits, "But the Reform Party parliamentary group as well."
Ernits found that they must refrain from seeking a candidate with a political background, but the current course of events does not appear to be supporting the use of this approach.
In his opinion, signatures [of support] may not even hold, and he referred to urgent presidential elections as a farce.
The Center MP found that a candidate with broad-based support should be someone who is supported by at least 80 MPs, and referred to both Kaljulaid and Luik as active members of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL).
Who is Kersti Kaljulaid?
Apparent presidential candidate Kersti Kaljulaid was born in Tartu in 1969. In 1992, she graduated from the University of Tartu with a degree in biology, which she followed up by earning her MBA from the same university in 2001.
In 1998 and 1999, Kaljulaid worked as a project manager in Hansapank Markets' investment banking division, where her main area of expertise included corporate mergers and acquisitions as well as privatization consulting.
In 1999, Kaljulaid became economic advisor to Prime Minister Mart Laar (Pro Patria Union, predecessor of today's IRL). While working in this position, she coordinated cooperation of the prime minister's office, the Bank of Estonia, the Ministry of Finance and other ministries with large budget allocations. She was also coordinator of Estonia's relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and participated in the preparation for pension reform together with the Ministries of Finance and Social Affairs.
In February 2002, Kaljulaid was appointed director of the department of management accounting at state-owned energy company Eesti Energia's Iru Power Plant, and in September of that year was promoted to director of the same.
Kaljulaid has also represented the state on the supervision board of the Estonian Genome Center, and from 2002 to 2004 was a radio presenter for Raadio Kuku. Since 2004, Kaljulaid has worked as an auditor of the European Court of Auditors.
Before her appointment to the European Court of Auditors, Kaljulaid was a member of the Pro Patria Union, one of the predecessors of today’s junior coalition partner IRL.