Political scientist: Kaljulaid's Riigikogu candidacy cannot be ruled out

President Kersti Kaljulaid.
President Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: Ken Mürk

Although Center Party's Riigikogu group chairman Jaanus Karilaid has ruled out that Kersti Kaljulaid could continue as the president of Estonia, political scientist Martin Mölder told ERR that Kaljulaid being re-elected through the regional electoral colleges is still possible.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE) has begun to support re-electing Kersti Kaljulaid for a second term as president recently. Party board member Riina Sikkut told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Wednesday that if Reform and Center cannot present a single candidate, the next president should be chosen from a list of popular candidates.

Sikkut said Kaljulaid has handled her position well over the past five years. "She has developed the role well and has come out with strong statements in domestic politics and has done well with foreign policy. Now there is the question of why are we even considering anyone else?," Sikkut said.

Political scientist Martin Mölder said it is likely that the coalition pairing of Reform and Center will try to find a common candidate. If the parties cannot find such a candidate and instead present candidates of their own, it would not affect the coalition's chemistry well.

The preferences of Reform and Center differ, however. "While still in opposition, Reform supported the current president's re-election. Center has now clearly stated they are opposed to it. If there was a situation where Reform supports Kaljulaid and Center has their own candidate, it could also mean a collapse of the government. I think they are trying to avoid that," Mölder said.

In case the coalition drops their search of a common candidate, the current president's candidacy could still go through in the regional electoral colleges.

"And then, Reform and SDE could support Kaljulaid and if they could additionally convince half of the electoral body's members coming from local municipality governments, getting 50 percent of the votes could happen. But there are so many preconditions there that I do not deem this a likely result," Mölder noted.

Riina Sikkut said finding a presidential candidate should be a more open process. "It should not be a tradition that people hear about a presidential candidate just before the voting. We should let them debate, introduce themselves, let people ask questions from them," Sikkut said.

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. EKRE has 19, Isamaa 12 and SDE 10 seats.

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: Kristjan Kallaste

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