Daily: Kallas sees Center too tainted to put up viable president candidate

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Now that Jüri Ratas (Center) has taken himself out of the running for this autumn's presidential elections, daily Postimees writes on its English-language page, Aadu Must, an MP with the party, has named as a potential candidate, though Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says the entire Center Party is tainted with past scandals, meaning a suitable candidate is unlikely to be found in and among its ranks - or at least so runs a common claim from among opposition politicians.

Prime minister and Reform leader Kaja Kallas, who has said a unifying candidate is needed ahead of the round of ballots which starts at the Riigikogu at the end of August, told Postimees that, however, any Center candidate may be questionable given the party – which her party is in a coalition partnership with – given Center's track record and: "Considering all of its recent scandals and inasmuch as the president should set a moral example."

Kallas added that: "On the one hand, it is good if candidates. or the eventual president, know how the state functions; understand the political reality," noting that only politicians had sufficient grasp of the social zeitgeist.

Center's Secretary General, Andre Hanimägi, said that while Center had plenty of potential candidates for the next head of state, this was not a decision which was solely for politicians, while Kallas' criticisms of Center's reputation were unfounded, he said, pointing to the party's various recent leaders: Prime minister (Jüri Ratas, until January this year – Ratas is now Riigikogu speaker), Mayor of Tallinn (Mihhail Kõlvart) and European Commissioner (Kadri Simson), as evidence of this.

Opposition party Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said he agreed with Kallas up to a point, noting that Center had in effect just been all about Jüri Ratas and with the latter declaring himself out of the race following intense media speculation that he would run, this left Center without any obvious alternative.

The full Postimees piece is here.

The presidential elections follow several rounds of balloting at the Riigikogu, which, if they prove inconclusive, continue in the regional electoral colleges. While parties can and do put up their own potential candidates – sitting presidents must leave any political party they may have belonged to before taking up the post – since 67 votes are needed for a clear winner at the 101-seat Riigikogu, in practice parties must work out a compromise candidate.

Jüri Ratas has expressed several times a desire to get the next head of state decided at the Riigikogu – and as speaker he oversees business there – rather than have a protracted process as happened in November 2016, when both the parliament and the electoral colleges drew a blank.

After those runners and riders still left in the race dropped out, Kersti Kaljulaid was brought in as a dark horse candidate from her long-term post at the European Court of Auditors, and a so-called council of elders at the Riigikogu voted her in.

Kaljulaid is eligible for a second consecutive term, but has not said one way or the other on her position, publicly. The Riigikogu breaks up for summer recess next week, not returning until the end of August precisely to start the presidential election process.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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