Center Party chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas has reiterated that he has no intention of running for president at the end of August. While Ratas, a former prime minister, first announced he would not be in the race back in late May, remarks by his party's Riigikogu group chair Jaanus Karilaid recently rekindled speculation.
Ratas said via his social media account that he: "Thanked everyone who considers me worthy of the presidency, but as of today we have to take into account the certain fact that I am not in fact running for president."
Jaanus Karilaid had told daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) in an article which published earlier on on Tuesday that if the party leaders locked in negotiations on a presidential candidate – Estonian presidents get elected at the Riigikogu – failed to find a suitable one, Ratas would be the default candidate for Center.
Ratas added in his social media post that parties keep their noses to the grindstone on finding a candidate; while the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is going it alone with Henn Põlluaas, without the support of any other parties' MPs, he would miss the 68 or more votes required for the job by a long chalk – EKRE has 19 seats at the Riigikogu – and may well miss out on even qualifying to run (which requires 21 votes).
A virtual meeting held Monday night failed to make much progress, ERR reports, following an apparent compromise candidate, Tarmo Soomere, somewhat imploding in the tail end of last week.
While Soomere could in theory come back as a candidate if the Riigikogu fails to elect a president, after which the process would continue with the provincial electoral colleges, Ratas, as Riigikogu speaker, has repeatedly said he wants the issue squared away on Toompea.
Perhaps with the current apparent debacle in mind, along with memories of 2016 – when the process also became as protracted as it could be – Ratas also noted that transforming the presidential elections into direct polls of the entire citizenry might be an idea ahead of the next election to head of state, in 2026.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Indrek Saar, has, as an alternative, proposed a referendum, but this has been largely rebuffed.
In 2016 Kersti Kaljulaid was elected by the Riigikogu's council of elders, which comprises speaker (then Eiki Nestor of the Social Democrats), the speaker's two deputies, and the chairs of each party group (then six, now five), after several rounds of ballots at the Riigikogu and then in the electoral colleges drew a blank.
Editor: Andrew Whyte