Ratas: Tarmo Soomere could still end up as presidential candidate

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Jüri Ratas Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tarmo Soomere's potential presidential candidacy is not completely off the radar, Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center) says. Soomere had been an apparent compromise candidate for the two largest parties, Reform and Center, and had courted two of the three opposition parties, Isamaa and the Social Democrats, but effectively dropped out of the race late last week after reports that support was not high enough among the parties for him to get elected at the Riigikogu.

Ratas told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "If we talk about Tarmo Soomere, then as a candidate, he has not really gone anywhere.

"At the discussion that took place last Friday, while it was clear that 68 MPs do not back him at the moment, that does not mean that he could not become a candidate whatsoever," Ratas went on.

Sixty-eight or more votes are required at the 101-seat Riigikogu for a candidate to be elected president.

Reform and Center together have 59 seats, meaning they would need nine more MPs from either Isamaa or the Social Democrats (SDE) to get Soomere elected, even assuming all the Reform and Center deputies were on board.

The other opposition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), is going it alone with its own candidate, Henn Põlluaas.

"There has been no result up to today, it is true. If we look at the situation five years ago, the result came only when we returned to the Riigikogu. That time it took even longer. I think that if the parties have expressed a desire to agree via their chairs, I believe that has been sincere and we are working towards that at present," Ratas went on.

Ratas has consistently expressed a desire to get the elections done and dusted at the Riigikogu, rather than extend to the regional electoral college phase, as happened in 2016. After the electoral colleges, made up of regional representatives from local and national legislatures, drew a blank as well, the process moved back to the Riigikogu, where Kersti Kaljulaid was voted in by the parliament's council of elders. The process had started at the end of August 2016, but it was November by the time Kaljulaid got elected (Ratas entered office as prime minister for the first time later that month, following a vote of no-confidence in Taavi Rõivas).

Isamaa's leader was more pessimistic, saying he did not think that the process would be resolved at the Rigiikogu even if the party leaders were in accordance on a candidate – their MPs might not agree.

Seeder said: "One or other MP need not think along the same lines about specific candidates as their party as a whole, so now we have to consider the Riigikogu, which has 101 members, and not just five parties.

Tarmo Soomere made a statement Tuesday in which he pledged to represent Estonia and its people in any capacity.

If the Riigikogu round of voting was inconclusive, Soomere, an academic and not a political figure, could still get chosen by the electoral colleges; he has the backing of one local municipality so far, in Saku, just outside Tallinn.

Ratas reaffirmed Tuesday that he would not be running himself, despite occasional rumors to the contrary. As Riigikogu speaker, that would also mean Ratas overseeing his own election.

He has also speculated that the presidential ballot process could be changed to direct elections by the entire franchise, rather than at the Riigikogu.

Ratas also says that a common candidate approved of by enough MPs from the fours parties by August 30 is viable.

Under electoral regulations, candidates must register no later than four days before polling day.

Reform's secretary general, Erkki Keldo, said that all four parties need to support a candidate to get 68+ votes. The four parties have 92 seats together, but this would allow for individual MPs not voting with the party.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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