Tarmo Soomere: Head of state should be a unifying influence in politics

Tarmo Soomere.
Tarmo Soomere. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A head of state should avoid interfering in domestic politics, while at the same time help to find societal common ground, one potential candidate for next month's presidential elections says.

Tarmo Soomere, an academic and head of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia) told daily Postimees that: "The president in general has to keep his or her personal opinion in the background at all times.

Current incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid has attracted criticism from some quarters in acting as a polarizing force in society, though Soomere did not reference her directly in the interview as quoted by BNS.

"The role of the president in Estonia is to strike a balance between the different powers. The president should be one who builds cross-links in society in order to make society stronger, more capable of working, more capable of discussion, and to let Estonia evolve as one diamond, not a quantity of graphite powder," Soomere, 63, continued, adding he would want to be a builder rather than a dismantler of society, as well as a figurehead.

"While this is not written in the constitution, it has been an extremely important part of the work of all previous presidents. The president listens to what people have to say and helps to find the middle ground between people's wishes and what can actually be done," he added.

While Soomere's name first appeared in connection with a presidential bid earlier this year, at the time he had no public backing from any political heavyweight, he is now being put forward by Riigikogu speaker as a potential cross-party candidate, with a view to getting enough support at the 101-seat chamber to find the 68 or more votes needed to take the post.

Potential candidates need 21 initial votes at the Riigikogu to even run in the first place.

Ratas reiterated Friday that he has no intention of running as head of state, an announcement he first made in early June following weeks of speculation that he would be a candidate.

As Riigikogu speaker he would have been overseeing his own election in any case, had he done so.

Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible for a second consecutive term as president, but has not publicly declared an intention to run, and has also been linked with several high-profile international posts in recent months, most recently as a potential successor to Jens Stoltenberg as NATO Secretary General.

Former Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) has declared his intention to run, but would require two more votes than his party's 19 seats would provide, in order to do so.

Tarmo Soomere said the serious discussions on his candidacy began about a week-and a-half ago, but would not elaborate on the nature of the conversations.

"I can only talk about the starting point when Jüri Ratas called me and asked me if my 'yes' was valid," Soomere said.

The election process starts August 30. If the rounds of Riigikogu ballots prove inconclusive, the process continues with the regional electoral colleges.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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