Former justice minister rejects coalition's proposal to run for president

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Former Minister of Justice Jüri Raidla. Source: ERR

Former Minister of Justice Jüri Raidla has rejected a proposal by the coalition parties to run for president of Estonia.

Raidla said on Monday evening that he would not be putting himself forward as a candidate. "I simply deem my preparedness in some fields insufficient for performing presidential duties," he said.

"I indeed received a joint proposal from [leaders of the coalition parties] Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas two weeks ago to weigh running for president. This is true," Raidla said.

Raidla cited insufficient competence in foreign policy affairs as the reason why he had decided not to stand for election. He added that while he could learn about the subject after he had been elected, this did not seem enough.

"I am a consumer of media and information but I have never dealt with foreign policy issues specifically," the former minister of justice said, adding that he deems himself somewhat more suitable for other roles required for the position, such as those concerning constitutional review.

Kallas and Ratas said disagreed saying his argument against running was not strong enough.

Raidla said that he would instead like to see politician and former rector of the University of Tartu and Tallinn University of Technology Jaak Aaviksoo running for president.

"He has competence in all these three areas I highlighted earlier. He has dealt with foreign policy while repeatedly serving as a government minister. He has served as rector in several universities and in these posts also addressed foreign policy issues, albeit not at state level, but at a very important public law level. Jaak Aaviksoo is also very well acquainted with the functioning of the state both from the inside and outside - by which I mean that he was a member of the supervisory board of the State Reform Foundation," Raidla added.

Presidential candidates are proposed by each party and must win a two-thirds majority in the Riigikogu to be elected. So far, only EKRE has proposed a candidate. The election will be held on August 30 and the winning candidate will be president for five years.

Last week, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said a candidate had been agreed on but they needed to be persuaded to put themselves forward.

How is the president elected?

Presidential candidates are proposed by parties and elected by the government rather than directly elected by the public.

Potential candidates need to win 21 or more votes from the 101-seat Riigikogu to officially run as a presidential candidate and must win at least 67 votes to become president. This means no single party can elect the president by themselves and the candidate must have cross-party support.

In the current government, the coalition parties have a total of 59 seats, Reform has 34 and Center 25. Eight more are needed to elect a president.

If the Riigikogu voting round draws a blank, the process rolls out to regional electoral colleges. Should these also prove inconclusive, the matter returns to parliament, with a Riigikogu council of elders having the final say. This is how current President Kersti Kaljulaid became president in 2016 but parties have said they want to avoid this process in 2021.

The Riigikogu rounds start on August 31, while the deadline to declare is 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.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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