'Olukorrast riigis': Ratas still in the presidential race

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Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas remains one of the likeliest choices for the next president of the republic despite saying he does not plan to run earlier in the week, journalists Hindrek Riikoja and Indrek Lepik found on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show.

"As far as I can understand, it is very likely that Ratas will return in the Electoral College. We should see by then whether it will prove possible to find an alternative candidate to the coalition's liking. But why should it? That is when we will see Ratas return, whereas the coalition should have the votes to get him elected," Riikoja said.

Lepik agreed that Ratas has several ways back into the presidential race as the Riigikogu is unlikely to elect the president after which the election will move to the Electoral College. "However, we need to admit that President Kersti Kaljulaid is also in with a good chance. A stalemate could see politicians prefer the incumbent over a less-known candidate," Lepik offered.

The hosts agreed that while the chances of some non-political candidates are being weighed, recent experience has favored active politicians – Lennart Meri, Arnold Rüütel and Toomas Hendrik Ilves were all politicians before becoming president. Riikoja said that President Kaljulaid has been the most apolitical of the bunch, recalling how Kaljulaid was poised to work at the Praxis Center for Policy Studies upon her return from the European Court of Auditors and was expected to join Isamaa and become its leader. "Therefore, she was not that far removed from politics either," he added.

Still, Riikoja found that the chances of Kaljulaid being reelected are modest. "It would require a shift of some sort, because Center members do not support her and it is possible Ratas has not forgiven her for criticism of the previous government," Riikoja said. And even though Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said she could support Kaljulaid, her fellow Reform Party members seem less enthusiastic about the prospect, the host added. Many Reform members have taken offense following Kaljulaid's criticism of Reform's performance in the opposition, Riikoja pointed out.

"Just as Kallas has said she is unable to guarantee Ratas Reform's support in the Riigikogu, she also cannot guarantee it for Kaljulaid."

Riikoja also said he is sorry Ratas did not manage to amend the presidential elections act during his four years as PM, for example, by introducing a longer period during which candidates can be set up or changing who has the right to propose candidates.

Based on that, Lepik found that the entire process is becoming a farce four and a half years after Kaljulaid was elected in the fall of 2016. "We cannot say we are electing the best president for Estonia. Instead, we are playing at political combinatorics a la the European Union where top places often go to least offensive or most convenient candidates. The process will do a lot to make direct presidential elections seem increasingly sensible," Lepik said.

The hosts of "Olukorrast riigis" also discussed Finland's continued travel restrictions, the coronavirus situation, openness of court proceedings, the G7 tax decision and the Eesti Energia shale oil plant project.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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