Tarmo Soomere: I am a scientist first and foremost

Tarmo Soomere on Thursday's 'Otse uudistemajast'.
Tarmo Soomere on Thursday's 'Otse uudistemajast'. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The five elected political parties in Estonia are searching for a 'face' of Estonia in the presidential elections, which start at the end of this month, one potential candidate, Tarmo Soomere says. In a somewhat cagey interview given to ERR's Toomas Sildam, via the 'Otse uudistemajast' webcast, Soomere said he did not want to reveal his political viewpoints, and qualified earlier reports he would back same-sex marriage, adding that he was primarily a scientist.

"I would keep personal questions out of the picture and the recording," Soomere responded to the fairly straightforward question of whether he was married.

The political parties represent different worldviews, Soomere, who is president of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia), added, calling them. "The underlying principles of the functioning of democracy which will be debated for some time. In the course of this discussion, as many different variants as possible will be put on the table."

To get elected, a head of state requires a minimum of 68 votes at the 101-seat Riigikogu, meaning that parties at some point have to come to an agreement on a candidate rather than all putting up their own one.

While the leaders of the two coalition partners, Reform and Center, say they have found a common candidate, they have not publicized a name. Assuming all the two parties MPs together vote in favor of this candidate, with 59 votes this would require another party's or parties' MPs to come on board. 

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has pledged to go it alone with former speaker Henn Põlluaas, but with 19 seats, they need at least two MPs from other parties for him to run (potential candidates require 21 votes at the chamber to run in the first place).

Soomere said he did not want to share his political views, adding he had a scientist's worldview, making a scientific approach to questions viable.

He also said he had not been fully understood on his line on same-sex official unions.

"Same-sex cohabitation is essentially in line with my worldview," he said, adding that this was in the understanding of Article 12 of the constitution, which states that noone in Estonia may be discriminated against, as opposed to an ardent drive towards the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Earlier in the week, Soomere had answered Indrek Saar, leader of opposition party the Social Democrats (SDE), in the affirmative when the latter had asked him whether he supported marriage equality,

A half-way house law from 2014 would grant legal recognition to partners cohabiting, both opposite sex and same-sex, but stops short of full same-sex marriage recognition, and in any case has been mired ever since in waiting implementing legislation to bring it fully into force.

As to the question whether, as president, Soomere would meet with the U.S. President and what the pair might discuss, Soomere said he would call the prime minister and the foreign affairs minister first, to ask them for guidance on what to talk about.

With the Russian president, topics of discussion would be more apparent, Soomere, who speaks fluent Russian, said – namely sports and bridge, i.e. the card-game.

Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas has repeatedly expressed a desire to get the presidential elections squared away at parliament rather than extended out into rounds of balloting in the regional electoral colleges, as happened in 2016. This year's presidential election process starts just as the local municipal elections on October 17 are looming.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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