Ratas: Intention is to get president elected within Riigikogu alone

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The coalition government, with leaders (left to right) Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), Mart Helme (EKRE) and Jüri Ratas (Centre), may have been signed in by Kersti Kaljulaid just a couple of weeks ago, but has already caused the spilling of much virtual ink Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Center Party chair Jüri Ratas has announced presidential election voting later this year should be confined to the Riigikogu.

Ratas, who is scheduled to be the next Riigikogu speaker from March and who was prime minister November 2016 to January this year, mentioned his intention on his social media account, ERR's online Estonian new reports, and also said it is Center's aim to have direct presidential elections put in place after the 2023 general election.

Under the current system, Estonia's president is not directly elected by the people but instead, parties put up candidates for rounds of voting at the Riigikogu, followed by voting at regional electoral college level should these prove inconclusive. If the electoral college stage draws a blank too, a body known as the council of Riigikogu elders holds a ballot on who will be president next.

It was via this last route that Kersti Kaljulaid, who had been working at the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg for several years, became president in September 2016, a couple of months before Ratas entered office as prime minister – also not following a direct election, but after a vote of no-confidence in Taavi Rõivas (Reform) instigated by opposition Isamaa and Social Democratic (SDE) parties switched Center for Reform.

Ratas: Center wants direct presidential elections

Ratas said: "Up to now, we in the Center Party group have agreed to discuss [presidential] candidates in May. The goal is that this time the choice would be made in the Riigikogu chamber, and the future president would integrate more into our society."

A candidate must get a minimum two-thirds of the vote at the 101-seat Riigikogu to enter office.

Relations between Ratas as prime minister and Kersti Kaljulaid had been somewhat fractious, particularly once the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) entered office with Center and Isamaa in late April 2019. Relations between the two offices seem to have become a lot less strained since Kaja Kallas entered office last month.

In 2020, Kaljulaid announced she would be running as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD's next secretary general this year, but withdrew her candidacy shortly after Ratas' resignation as prime minister and the installation of Kaja Kallas as his replacement.

A bill EKRE submitted Tuesday which would pave the way for direct presidential elections was rejected at its first reading at the Riigikogu.

Center and EKRE together have 44 seats, still not enough for a bill to pass a vote unless MPs from other parties joined them - Center are in office with Reform.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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