SDE MP: Too close to call on whether party will back Karis as candidate

Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE).
Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Social Democratic Party (SDE) board member and MP Jevgeni Ossinovski says he cannot predict whether his party will support Alar Karis as president or not. There are some in the party who would be prepared to do so, and others not, the MP said.

Ossinovski told ERR Thursday morning that: "I won't venture to predict how we will vote today. I am an experienced enough politician to be ready to vote in one way or another in the context of a joint decision. But that decision is not easy for us."

SDE are meeting Thursday morning to decide whether to back national museum director Alar Karis as presidential candidate. If the party did so, there would be enough votes (70), when added to Center and Reform's mandates, for Karis to get elected next Monday at the Riigikogu.

Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said Wednesday afternoon that his party's 12 MPs would be free to vote how they wished on any presidential candidates who get nominated Sunday evening.

Ossinovski, a former party leader, did not exclude SDE doing the same.

"This cannot be ruled out. The course of the debate shows it. On Monday, after meeting Karis, we had those who were ready to support him immediately. But there were also those who were not ready to do so," he said.

Ossinovski said he understood Isamaa's approach, given the latter party's offer for a common candidate search with Center and Reform, the two coalition partners, was rebuffed.

SDE is in the same boat, he said – Reform and Center reject candidates it proposes, and then demand support for the candidate they put forward themselves.

"This creates an emotional background on why we have to choose from candidates who are not so good for us, but are fit for the coalition," he went on.

The candidates SDE had proposed were its MEP, Marina Kaljurand, and current president, Kersti Kaljulaid, he said.

Ossinovski also said that while Reform's leader Kaja Kallas was in opposition she repeatedly pledged support for Kaljulaid's reelection, now her party is in office, they have ditched the current president: "Like Joe Biden has with Afghanistan."

This also muddies the water for SDE, he said.

With the other opposition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), going it alone with its own candidate, former speaker Henn Põlluaas, SDE not pledging support for Karis might make things easier for that party too.

"We have diametrically different approaches to the presidential election process. They want to flirt with the electoral college with their candidate, we want to choose the best president for Estonia."

With 19 seats EKRE would need support from at least two MPs from other parties for Põlluaas to even run, but if the process was prolonged into the electoral college, the party would be likely to find sufficient votes for that there.

Monday sees the first Riigikogu ballot, with candidates to be officially declared the evening before. If it draws a blank, the process repeats twice on Tuesday, starting with nominations and then voting, in an effort to reach the magic tally of 68 votes.

If these both fail the process moves to the electoral colleges, regional bodies who convene in Tallinn for the actual vote, next month.

Riigikogu speaker and Center leader Jüri Ratas has repeatedly stated a desire to get the next head of state elected at parliament.

SDE is scheduled to make its announcement about Alar Karis after 11.00 a.m. Thursday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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