Riigikogu speaker asks museum director to consider running as president

Alar Karis speaking at an exhibition in the Rotermann Quarter in Tallinn earlier in the summer.
Alar Karis speaking at an exhibition in the Rotermann Quarter in Tallinn earlier in the summer. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Center Party chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas has approached national museum director Alar Karis with a proposal that he run as president, Karis confirmed Tuesday. Karis, whose name had been linked with the role in the media before now, said he will mull over the offer till at least Wednesday.

"Yes, there I got a call yesterday," Karis, who portal Delfi reported a week ago was in the hunt, told ERR Tuesday morning.

"Such calls are unexpected, although my name has appeared in various media outlets. This was [also] the case five years ago, but you cannot take such things seriously and go along with them," he said.

"Now the Center Party chair called me I have to think what 'no' or 'yes' means to me, and also to my family and to the Estonian state. To do that, I took some time out to think about whether the personal qualities I have, or that I think I have, can somehow fit in with the role," he went on.

Whether his answer right now would be yes or no, Karis said that: "I also told Jüri Ratas that it was leaning more towards a 'no'. However, with these things, the more you think about them, the more the thoughts tend to stick. I will clarify things, and then make my announcement."

Karis added that all four parties negotiating on finding a common presidential candidate – Reform, Center, the Social Democrats (SDE) and Isamaa, had discussed the issue and not just Center alone.

He said: "[Ratas] pointed out that four party leaders had sat down and discussed my name and possible candidacy. This is the information I have."

The other opposition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) are going it alone with their own candidate, former Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas.

The presidential electoral process starts August 30, less than two weeks away, though the four parties have yet to find an agreement on a candidate amenable to them all.

Kersti Kaljulaid said Monday that she would be prepared to run for a second term.

Karis said that as to when he might be able to give his answer, Wednesday might be possible. "I must stress once again that, because this came unexpectedly, everything has to be thought through," he added.

As to his worldview, Karis, 63, said that when he was younger, he was considerably more liberal than he is today, and that "Conservative elements have been added."

"However, to place yourself on that spectrum ... all the more so since that spectrum doesn't really exist, if things really get that far, it will become clear during the conversations," he went on.

Alar Karis is director of the Estonian National Museum (ERM), which is located in Tartu.

Estonian presidents are not elected directly by the populace, but instead by the Riigikogu and, if these ballots fail to get a result, a regional electoral college following that.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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