Jüri Ratas says no intention of running for president
Center Party chair Jüri Ratas has ruled out running in this autumn's presidential election, laying to rest weeks of media speculation that he might do so.
"This story of Jüri Ratas [as a presidential candidate] can be put to rest now and we will move on. We will find a person who will really have broad political support, either at the Riigikogu, or at the [regional] electoral college," Ratas told Vikerraadio news show "Uudis+" Tuesday morning.
Presidents are not elected directly by the people.
Of media speculation of a possible run, Ratas said that that was all it had been.
"It seems to me that this desire was probably more in the press to play with [my] name. I have never said that I was running for president."
He did however say that he felt no unifying candidate would be found – a matter which would be a prerequisite for getting a president elected at parliament, and said that he wants to focus on leading Center in October's local elections.
"I say that results are more important than haste, and to my knowledge the Center Party is still looking for a presidential candidate today, both inside and outside the party, and that name is definitely not going to be my name, " he added.
Media pressure had also built up on a candidate to declare they were running, or were not running.
Any presidential would-be candidate requires 21 Riigikogu votes to run, then must obtain 67 votes at the 101-seat chamber to become president.
This means that at some point, a cross-party candidate has to be found, if the president is to be chosen via the Riiigkogu ballots – an outcome Ratas has said several times he would want to see. If this voting draws a blank, voting passes to the regional electoral colleges.
Ratas: President should be a bridge-builder
Ratas need not only the support of all of his party's MPs (25) as well as those of coalition partner Reform's (34), but those from other parties.
Ratas resigned as prime minister in January after a real estate corruption scandal was linked to the Center Party, becoming Riigikogu speaker in March.
As speaker, he would oversee presidential elections in any case; were he to put himself forward as a presidential candidate, he would have had to quit the Center Party, since presidents cannot belong to any political party.
Ratas said that the ideal president would build bridges.
"As far as the president is concerned, I really think it is necessary to find an individual who will build bridges in Estonia, who will build up Estonian society, who will see Estonia in its different areas, not 'let's dig trenches here."
President Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible to run for a second consecutive term; critics have said she has been a polarizing force in society.
Ratas said that he will run in the local elections, which take place in October – shortly after the presidential elections or even before a president is elected, depending on whether the process is protracted or not.
In 2016, after both Riigikogu and electoral college ballot run-offs failed, Kersti Kaljulaid was brought in as a relative outsider, and the Riigikogu's council of elders – comprising speaker and deputy speakers, plus political party group chairs (of which there were six at the time, now five – ed.) – voted her into office. Kaljulaid had been working at the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg.
The presidential election process starts at the end of August.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte