Ansip looking to Aaviksoo and Madise for president

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Ülle Madise and Jaak Aaviksoo. Source: ERR

Talking about looming presidential elections, Ansip initially lingers on two candidates. They are former minister and TalTech rector Jaak Aaviksoo and Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise. Ansip rules out running himself.

MEP Andrus Ansip, who served as chairman of the Reform Party and prime minister in 2005-2014 before becoming European Commission vice president, lists three reasons why he is not interested in becoming president of Estonia in an interview to be published in full next week.

"A purely ceremonial role is not one I would feel comfortable in after nine years at the head of executive power," Ansip first says.

"Secondly, I realize that the patience of the Estonian people has been tested quite enough [with Andrus Ansip] and I would refrain from adding to it," he continues, laughing.

And thirdly? "I am not old enough to give up having my own opinion. I would like to be free to feel about politics as I do. A person who aims to become president needs to be more malleable in their words aimed at various political forces. I have never been that person and let it serve as yet another assurance that I have no presidential aspirations."

Ansip agrees that it is certain the next president will not come from the ranks of the Reform Party that already holds the keys to the government or the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) as they simply do not have enough political influence.

Therefore, the next president should transcend political forces and could not be a current party chairman or someone with a clearly identifiable party affiliation.

"I would like to see someone of a more scholarly persuasion, from outside party politics, someone capable of uniting Estonia and serving as a moral lighthouse," Ansip reasons.

Could the Reform Party support a Centrist candidate?

"Of course it could, while that depends on the candidate," he says, adding that the president should be elected in the Riigikogu.

Asked to perhaps name a few names, Ansip mentions Jaak Aaviksoo as one of the strongest ministers in his government in terms of hardworking character and the ability to see the big picture.

Would Ansip then bet on Aaviksoo, who has served as education and defense minister and headed the University of Tartu and the Tallinn University of Technology?

"I merely gave you one possible name. But why not. While he is headstrong, he is a scientist and capable of defending different political positions, also on the international arena. He is outspoken… It was not a random name. I truly believe he would make a good candidate, while you should not conclude that Aaviksoo is Reform's man. I haven't discussed this with anyone and that includes Jaak Aaviksoo," Ansip says.

He also gives another name.

"I'm also thinking of Ülle Madise. I regard her a very strong personality. She has been active in public administration for a long time and has a clear idea of how the Estonian state functions. She is also not someone who would bend easily and has her own convictions. That is the kind of person I would like to see become president. Someone who refrains from taking populists stands and trying to meet the public's expectations but would speak their mind even when knowing that it is not what the masses want to hear," Ansip says of the justice chancellor.

Potential presidential candidates so far are President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere, Director of the Estonian National Museum Alar Karis, former defense minister Jüri Luik and former PM Jüri Ratas.

Andrus Ansip. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ansip also characterized the four recent presidents of re-independent Estonia.

"Lennart Meri was a shining personality, a visionary who managed to take Estonia to the world, introduce the fact such a country exists. He also served as a moral lighthouse for the Estonian people.

Arnold Rüütel was revered for his role in the restoration of independence. He was the president who helped take Estonia to the EU and had myriad supporters in rural areas.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves was clearly an intellectual. I regard as his greatest service making Estonia greater than it was. Creating the e-Estonia brand is not just something we can be proud of but yields both tangible revenue and political capital, when countries know that somewhere next to Russia is a hardworking and successful e-Estonia.

When it comes to Kersti Kaljulaid, we need to admit that the latter half of her term has coincided with the coronavirus crisis in which no politician can be who they really want to be as our roles are limited to an extent. However, I do not agree with her opponents' claims according to which she has been too outspoken on domestic issues."

The full version of the interview with Andrus Ansip will be published on ERR News next week. In it, Ansip also talks about his view of the current government and Reform's coalition partner (Center Party), handling of the coronavirus crisis, Estonia's participation in China's 17+1 format and the future of Estonian skiing.

Editor: Marcus Turovski

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