Parties still searching for potential presidential candidates

Session Hall at the Riigikogu.
Session Hall at the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

On August 30, the Riigikogu will meet to elect Estonia's next president. But with less than two months to go, there is still no election campaign to speak of.

In previous elections, everything has been different, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday. There were more candidates and the debates were well underway.

So far, President Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere and former speaker of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) have said they will stand as candidates, but the coalition has not yet proposed any candidates of its own. An agreement is needed between parties as the president needs to be elected with a two-thirds majority, which is 68 votes.

Isamaa Chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder told AK he thinks the experience at the last election, where the Riigikogu could not agree on a candidate, is holding parties back from choosing candidates.

"Not only is this a disappointment, but it is also a precaution. Caution by political parties that each party will come out with its own individual candidate and in free competition without the parties trying to reach a broader agreement, this result may not be sensible at all," he said.

EKRE chairman Martin Helme called the situation embarrassing and shameful and blamed the election format, which sees the Riigikogu and electoral council elect a president rather than a public vote.

"We have a presidential election system that is completely hopeless. Our presidential election system does not favor having dignified candidates. If we have dignified candidates, they will be nominated at the last minute. And, in fact, we still have a presidential election system that favors backroom agreements," he said.

On Thursday, EKRE officially presented the former speaker of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas as its candidate. As EKRE lacks votes to nominate Põlluaas in the Riigikogu, they can count on the electoral council.

Social Democratic Party Chairman (SDE) Indrek Saar highlighted the majority needed to elect the president and said without the support of the Reform Party the president will not be elected in the Riigikogu.

"But without them, it is impossible to get an agreement," he said.

SDE is willing to support current president Kersti Kaljulaid if the coalition parties, Reform and Center, also support her.

Chairman of the Center Party Jüri Ratas agrees with Helme that the system is broken and needs to be changed, but added this has been stated repeatedly and no changes have been made.

"Today's situation is still very open. I think it is very difficult to say any final positions today because these delicate consultations between the parties are ongoing and they have not come very far," Ratas said, discussing the current situation.

The Reform Party's Kristen Michal also said there was nothing concrete to say yet. "As far as I understand, these discussions are taking place right now, and they are probably taking place at other levels rather than just among the leaders," he said.

However, no one believes that no candidates will be put forward.

"I think we have three candidates today: Kersti Kaljulaid, Tarmo Soomere and Henn Põlluaas. And certainly, all three are businesslike and dignified people, but I believe that there will be more candidates by the end of the day," said Ratas.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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