Polls by two different market research companies are split on who the most popular choice is for Estonia's next president, with one survey putting current Riigkogu speaker and former prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) at the top, while the other found most support for current incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid returning for a second term.
Pollsters Kantar Emor found Jüri Ratas as most popular choice in a survey whose results were published Tuesday, while a recent survey by rivals Turu-uuringute AS reported Kaljulaid as most supported.
However, the two companies listed different candidates overall.
Kaljulaid and Ratas had been at loggerheads through much of the latter part of Jüri Ratas premiership, which ended in January, ostensibly the result of his party entering office with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) nearly two years ago to the day.
Kaljulaid last year announced her candidacy as next president of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but this has since been withdrawn.
Estonian presidents are allowed a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms; Kaljulaid became president in October 2016 following a lengthy round of ballots at the Riigikogu and the regional electoral colleges, ultimately being picked by the Riigikogu's council of elders (Riigikogu vanematekogu).
Kantar Emor's survey listed five potential candidates for respondents to pick from; academic Tarmo Soomere, former EKRE leader and former presidential candidate Mart Helme, and justice chancellor Ülle Madise joined Kaljulaid and Ratas on the list.
Ratas picked up 23 percent of support, the largest single haul, and was also most popular among Center voters, Estonians of "other nationalities", in practice meaning primarily Russian speakers, and people with basic education.
Kaljulaid was only just behind, on 21 percent of support, with voters of the socially liberal Reform, Social Democrats and Eesti 200 parties picking her above all others. The current president was also most popular among native Estonian-speaking respondents, both those with higher education and those without, ERR reports.
President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere, who threw his hat in the ring as a potential candidate last month, came in in third place with 11 percent, Mart Helme was next on 10 percent and Ülle Madise followed with 9 percent.
Soomere and Helme were most popular with voters of their respective parties, Isamaa and EKRE, while Madise's results showed no pattern in relation to any particular party.
Seven percent of respondents mentioned other, non-listed, candidates, off their own bats, with Social Democratic MEP Marina Kaljurand mentioned most. Kaljurand ran in the 2016 presidential elections, dropping out after the first ballot.
Around 20 percent of respondents expressed no preference.
Kantar Emor posed the question: "Who would suit best as President of the Republic of Estonia" in its survey, whose breakdown by candidate overall, and then by the six largest political parties' supporters, below.
The second survey, conducted by Turu-uuringute on behalf of daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL – link in Estonian), put Marina Kaljurand in second place, on 16 percent, with Ratas third on 15 percent, both behind the current president, who picked up 18 percent of support.
Of the remainder listed by Turu-uuringute, Tarmo Soomere polled at eight percent and Mart Helme at six percent. The survey also listed two people not in Kantar Emor's poll, namely Reform MEP and former prime minister, Andrus Ansip (5 percent) and academic David Vseviov (3 percent).
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they did not have a preference or could not say, however.
The breakdown by ethnicity/native tongue put Kaljulaid most popular with Estonians (on 22 percent), followed by Marina Kaljurand (17 percent), while Jüri Ratas was most popular by some margin, on 24 percent, among other nationalities' respondents.
The Center Party's traditional heartland has included the majority Russian-speaking towns in Ida-Viru County, though this has been eroded in recent years.
Presidential election 2021
The first round of presidential elections is to take place on August 30 at the Riigikogu. If no clear victor is found, the speaker (who is Jüri Ratas in fact – ed.) will announce the convening of the electoral college no later than the following day. That body, which consists of regional representatives of the political parties, must meet no later than September 25, ERR reports.
Other names which have been touted in recent months as potential candidates include former defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa).
Editor: Andrew Whyte