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Sildam: Will the Riigikogu elect a new president on Monday? They just might

Alar Karis.
Alar Karis. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

It is now three days until the Riigikogu will begin electing a president. How great are the chances that the central criminal police's personal protection office will take Alar Karis under their protection as an elected president? The probability is not low, but it is also not a safe bet.

You need at least 68 votes in the 101-seat Riigikogu to elect a president.

Reform and Center will present former state auditor-general, two-time university rector and current Estonian National Museum director Alar Karis as a presidential candidate. Since both large parties want to elect a president in parliament to be free of the burden by local government elections in October and Karis left a good impression when meeting party groups, Kaja Kallas (Reform) and Jüri Ratas (Center) do not fear a lack of votes.

But the coalition only has 59 of them. Where will they get at least nine more votes?

EKRE's 19-member Riigikogu faction cannot be considered election swingers, because they have their own candidate - Henn Põlluaas. Also, it is in their interest to delay the elections for as long as possible. This gives EKRE an opportunity to continue with Põlluaas' campaign, which is an important part of the party's local government election campaign.

Isamaa, which has 12 seats in the Riigikogu, noted on Wednesday that it is prepared to support Karis. Their chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder officially stated, however, that the party will not set up Karis' candidacy and each parliamentary faction member can vote with their own consciences on August 30.

This only means they will not sign off with Center and Reform to elect Karis, but the opposition Isamaa will also not publicly state their support to the coalition.

The key sentence in Seeder's statement is here: "We want the president to be elected in the Riigikogu".

If Isamaa desires to elect a president in the Riigikogu, they just have to support Karis. It is that simple.

If all Isamaa Riigikogu faction members voted for Karis, he could collect 71 votes. But if one or two MPs are ill or do not participate, the election can become questionable. And if not all Isamaa members are for Karis, his support can fall short of the necessary 68 votes.

The Social Democratic Party, who took more time to make a decision, could come to the rescue. Influential Social Democrat and MP Jevgeni Ossinovski said the party proposed to other parties that the president could be MEP Marina Kaljurand or that current president Kersti Kaljulaid could continue, but they have been "ditched without substantive arguments".

Party leaders did not seriously consider active politicians and only the Social Democratic Party would have liked to see Kaljulaid continue. "We want the best president for Estonia," Ossinovski said.

Alar Karis said in an interview in spring that the best candidate is never elected - either they do not want it or they are not wanted.

Social Democrats announced before Thursday noon that each faction member would too vote as they deem correct, because they did not reach a consensus on Karis' candidacy. This means some Social Democrats will vote for him.

So, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party could save the Riigikogu presidential elections on August 30, that is if Reform and Center vote unanimously like they have promised.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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