2021 presidential electoral college numbers slashed on previous election

Ballots in the Sept. 24 presidential elections at the electoral college, September 24, 2016.
Ballots in the Sept. 24 presidential elections at the electoral college, September 24, 2016. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

The number of electors in Estonia's electoral college will be more than halved ahead of next year's presidential election, from 234 to 107. The change follows administrative reforms which took place after Kersti Kaljulaid became president in 2016. The change would also heighten the extent to which the presidential elections are related to party politics of the five Riigikogu parties.

The presidential election in Estonia sees a first round of voting for candidates at the Riigikogu (presidents are not directly elected by the people – ed.) which, if the required 68 votes at the 101-seat chamber are found wanting, the next round sees voting by regional electoral colleges, comprising local government politicians, and Riigikogu members. 

The change will base the number of representatives from local government on population registry data containing data on the number of citizens entitled to vote as of January 1 2021.

Head of the State Electoral Service, told ERR that the number of representatives of local government councils will be determined based on the number of citizens entitled to vote as of January 1 next year.

"As of 17 August this year, 107 representatives of local government councils would belong to the electoral body on the basis of the population register data," Arne Koitmäe, head of the state electoral service, said.

This compares with the 2016 elections, which saw a total of 335 members in the electoral college – 101 Riigikogu MPs and 234 local government representatives.

In the event, Kersti Kaljulaid's 2016 candidacy received neither a decisive number of votes at the Riigikogu, nor from the electoral colleges. The requirement then was for the Riigikogu's Council of Elders, composed of the speaker (then Eiki Nestor (SDE) – ed.), the deputy speakers, and representatives of all (then six – ed.) political parties, to propose a sole candidate and with the latter's consent – in the event Kaljulaid – which was then voted on by secret ballot, which was subsequently revealed to have seen 90 votes in favor of the sole candidate, making her president-elect.

The change follows administrative reforms in 2017 which slashed the number of local government municipalities nationwide, from 213 to 79.

The change means that the proportion of independent electors will be greatly reduced – there is only one independent MP at the Riigikogu, but many local councilors do not belong to ore represent any of the major parties – meaning party politics, particularly that of the five parties represented at the Riigikogu, Center, EKRE and Isamaa, which are in office, and Reform and SDE, which are in position, is likely to be much more influential.

Most municipalities can send at least one elector to the electoral college, with larger municipalities sending multiple individuals – for instance in Tallinn, there were 10 electors in the 2016 presidential election, though the exact proportions for 2021 are not known yet.

The presidential elections run from August 10 to September 28 2021. Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible to run for a second consecutive term.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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