Kallas: We have president candidate in mind, now need persuading to run

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Kadriorg, seat of the President of the Republic of Estonia, in Kadriorg, Tallinn. Source: President's office.

The search for a suitable presidential candidate for the elections starting at the end of August is going well, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has said. However, the individual, who has not been named, has yet to be persuaded to run.

"Things are progressing very intensively. We are actually talking about this every day. We have found a good candidate, but convincing them to agree to run will take some work," she said.

Kallas said cooperation with Center Party leader Jüri Ratas has been going well, but would not elaborate further.

"There's no point in going into the details, but we'll do things together," Kallas told ERR Wednesday evening.

Estonian presidents are not elected directly by the people but rather by a process of ballots at the Riigikogu. Should these prove inconclusive, they then pass to the regional electoral colleges.

This year the coalition parties - Reform and Center - have said they want to elect the president in parliament round, rather than have a protracted process as in 2016. To do so requires the parties to find a common candidate to support.

Kallas said that the person her party had in mind was not Jüri Luik, defense minister in the last administration and an individual who has been endorsed by Jüri Ratas, according to news portal Delfi.

She said: "We did not get an agreement at this level. It is known that the Reform Party has supported Jüri Luik earlier in the last presidential election, and in the final round, Jüri Luik was Reform's candidate. But this time we did not have such a detailed discussion, because he went to NATO, as Estonia's ambassador."

Luik recently took up the NATO post, having earlier been the subject of speculation over a presidential bid.

With the exception on Henn Põlluaas from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), no parliamentary candidate has declared, and neither has current incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid.

Ratas: Presidential candidate should have cross-party support 

Chairman of the Center Party and the speaker of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas said on Thursday that the future candidate should have cross-party support.

"It is true that we are working hard with the Reform Party. We are trying to find a candidate. It certainly cannot just be a coalition candidate, it must be as broad-based as possible," Ratas said.

Asked if the potential candidate is former Governor of the Bank of Estonia Ardo Hansson, Ratas said he would not speculate about names until it had been confirmed someone had agreed to run.

Ratas confirmed work is being carried out in the Riigikogu to try and elected a president and the coalition wants to elect a candidate in the Riigikogu this time.

How is the president elected?

Candidates require 21 or more votes at the 101-seat Riigikogu to run in the first place, and 67 votes or more to become president, meaning parties must come to an agreement at some point. Reform has 34 seats and Center 25, meaning even if they do agree on a candidate, they need a further eight or more MPs from other parties to come on board.

If the Riigikogu rounds draw a blank, the process rolls out to regional electoral colleges; should the prove inconclusive, the matter returns to parliament, with a Riigikogu council of elders having final say – the method used when Kersti Kaljulaid became president in 2016.

The Riigikogu rounds start on August 31, while the deadline to declare is just four days before that.

This year's elections are complicated by the fact that a protracted process would clash with the local elections on October 17.

Editor's note: This article was updated to comments from Jüri Ratas.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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