Toomas Sildam: Not who, but what are we electing?

A ballot being cast in the 2016 Estonian presidential elections.
A ballot being cast in the 2016 Estonian presidential elections. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

In two weeks, on August 30, the Riigikogu will start electing a new president. "It is more important to know what we are electing and not who we are electing," former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has told Eesti Päevaleht. Right now, we do not know either, ERR journalist Toomas Sildam writes.

Reform and Center chairman Kaja Kallas and Jüri Ratas, the leaders of the search for a new presidential candidate, have recently talked about someone having enough votes and if someone was "doable". It would be good and correct if the president is not "done", but rather elected in a way that allows the hearing of different ideas and visions. But currently, the question of what the next president should be like has been left in the background.

In a world full of contradictions, it is important to know what the president of Estonia thinks about polarizing domestic questions, but also what should Estonia's stance as a temporary member of the UN Security Council be in discussions revolving Afghanistan and how should Estonia help the Afghanis that assisted Estonian-funded educational projects, as their security is now being threatened with the Taliban's rise to power.

One of the golden sentences of the week belongs to former minister Kaimar Karu, who offered himself up as a presidential candidate, but also said "we are looking for a president for Estonia, not the Riigikogu".

Truly, currently the seekers of a new head of state have acted as young mathematicians operating up to number 101 [the number of Riigikohu MPs - ed]. At the same time, it is true that a president will not be elected without 68 votes in parliament and finding the approval of at least three parties is complicated.

Eesti 200 chairwoman Kristina Kallas said aptly at the Paide Opinion Festival this weekend that on the one hand, partisan or politician egoism is interfering with the elections and on the other hand, there is confusion among the leadership over what the process of finding a presidential candidate even looks like.

Kaimar Karu's chances are not too great, perhaps they are even poor. So are those of Estonia Piano Factory director Indrek Laul, who sent MPs a letter in which he discussed the role of the presidential institution, foreign economy, exports and external relations.

Does this mean that the favorite is again the president of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Tarmo Soomere, the candidate presented by the chairman of the Center Party, who told newspaper Stolitsa that a head of state must "bury their personal opinions deep"? Electing him head of state was approved by several cultural figures, scientists and people involved in maritime affairs.

Soomere might not get the necessary support in the Riigikogu. Reform and Center would have enough power, however, to elect him in the electoral body and end this. But there are those in each of the party's parliamentary groups who think the search for a candidate must continue. Secondly, a president with only the coalition's approval would have weak traction, at least in the beginning of their term.

Does this mean going back to the beginning with the search for a candidate? And an attempt to persuade former defense and foreign affairs minister, ambassador Jüri Luik, who has said "no" to politicians so far? Or a return to rector and former state auditor-general, current Estonian National Museum director Alar Karis? Or perhaps politicians can agree that they should elect Soomere head of state and that's that? Or perhaps the second coming of current president Kersti Kaljulaid? Or another surprise candidate?

And do decision-makers have enough time to ask: What are we electing?


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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