Tarmo Soomere's exit as potential presidential candidate means that the political parties trying to agree on who should run will need to start from scratch again, Center leader and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas says. Ratas also hinted that his party, at least, still would not want a second term for Kersti Kaljulaid.
Ratas told ERR's Vikerraadio Friday that: "The Center Party is certainly looking for a new person as of now, and we are definitely continuing with discussions and consultations with other parties."
This meant that at this point, the four parties looking for a common candidate between them – Center, Reform, SDE and Isamaa – would not nominate incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid for a second term, Ratas said.
"We have not had that debate this week which would mean we were all ready to propose [nominating Kaljulaid] today," Ratas said.
Ratas was speaking the same day that the apparent candidacy of Tarmo Soomere fell through due to a lack of party support. While Soomere had looked like the coming man from early on last week, meeting with the four parties (the fifth Riigikogu party, EKRE, is going it alone with its own candidate) in turn, a rather pedestrian interview with ERR Thursday was followed by an announcement Friday morning that he would be stepping back.
Twenty-one votes are required at the Riigikogu to become an official candidate; 68 or more votes are needed at the 101-seat house to become president.
Jüri Ratas, as speaker, has long called for getting the presidential elections done and dusted at the Riigikogu, ahead of October's local elections, while Center's Riigikogu group chair Jaanus Karilaid said Friday that he believed the president would be elected in one fell swoop on August 30, the first day of the electoral process, though without naming the candidate.
"It is quite difficult to change this principle," Ratas said of the electoral process. "The principle is still the same, that the individual must have the support of at least 68 members of the Riigikogu, and it will remain the same. It is clear the parties are considering among themselves with each other on how to proceed, whose name could be put forward, who could get the requisite support."
Ratas added that: "Up to today at least, I had no idea that as we were talking to Tarmo Soomere, we would be talking to two or three other candidates."
Ratas had recently told ERR that all 25 Center MPs would have backed Soomere's candidacy. While SDE and Isamaa seemed lukewarm towards Soomere, with SDE leaning more towards Kaljulaid for a second term, so far as party leader Indrek Saar's public statements went, Reform, with 34 seats, would have needed to have gotten on board with Soomere for him to have had a chance.
Reform and Center met Soomere, an academic, jointly, though Reform's leader, Kaja Kallas, was reportedly not present.
The two parties have been in office together since January, after Ratas was ousted as prime minister and replaced by Kallas.
The heads of the four parties' Riigikogu groups will next convene Monday evening, Ratas said.
EKRE's candidate is former speaker Henn Põlluaas.
No other name has been recently linked with a bid; Ratas himself declared in late May he would not be running, ending weeks of speculation that he might do so.
Kersti Kaljulaid has received criticism from some quarters as a polarizing figure in Estonian society and politics, has been linked with several high-level international posts, and frequently clashed with Ratas' administration, once EKRE entered office in the coalition, April 2019-January this year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte