Prime Minister: We will stick all the way with Karis as candidate

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) appearing on ETV's 'Terevisioon' Monday.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) appearing on ETV's 'Terevisioon' Monday. Source: ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says her party will stick with Alar Karis as candidate throughout the presidential election process, all the way to the end of the electoral college if need be.

Speaking to ETV morning show "Terevisioon", specially broadcast from the Riigikogu Monday morning, Kallas said: "There is a certain number of votes at the electoral college, which could nominate a candidate. Our agreement (with the Center Party - ed.) is to support Alar Karist through to the end of the electoral college process. If we do not get him elected at the Riigikogu, we can elect him there."

If Monday's first round ballot, where Karis, 63, director of the national museum and a former auditor general, proves inconclusive, two more rounds follow Tuesday.

If these don't return a head of state, the electoral college, consisting of representatives of local government as well as Riigikogu MPs, convenes.

Kaja Kallas said that outlier candidates will not emerge in the electoral college phase, however.

The prime minister also shed further light on the events leading up to Karis' selection as official candidate, first by the Center Party and then by their coalition partner, Reform – in a process which Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE) say left them out in the cold.

Kallas said that her party would have backed Jüri Luik during the short lull between Tarmo Soomere's proposed candidacy falling through and Karis agreeing to run.

However, Luik rejected overtures to him to run, preferring to take on the post of ambassador to NATO instead.

Kallas said: "Unfortunately, Jüri Luik did not agree. Of course, politicians have the impression that if they are from a particular party, they may feel that they are the president of that party [alone]."

"But all the Estonian heads of state have shown that they are presidents of all of Estonia … For example, at the previous elections, Isamaa had thought that Kersti Kaljulaid would be a convenient president for them because she had worked for them. But that turned out not to be the case."

Kaljulaid was advisor to Mart Laar, when he was prime minister and a member of Isamaa's forerunner, Pro Patria.

Kaljulaid, however, was a harsh critic of the coalition which involved Isamaa, together with Center and EKRE, during the middle third of her first term in office.

Estonian presidents must leave any political party they are a member of before taking office; Toomas Hendrik Ilves had to do just that (from SDE) on becoming president in 2006.

Kaja Kallas also said that her party had engaged in talks with the other parties.

She said: "We have also communicated with other parties. In our talks, they said that they would be ready to support Alar Karis, but whether this gets reflected in a cross on the ballot paper will be revealed after the election. I have personally communicated with party chairmen."

Indications last week suggested around half of both SDE and Isamaa's MPs would back Karis. If this turned out to be the case, he would meet the 68 votes required.

Center chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas has also said that his party would stick with Karis through to the electoral colleges if need be.

Kallas said she was confident her own MPs would vote as the party has pledged (the Riigikogu ballot is confidential), while also noted that since Center, Isamaa and EKRE would not back Kersti Kaljulaid for a second term, she would not enter office.

On Alar Karis himself, the prime minister said he was: "A good candidate considering his previous experience as rector of two universities, and auditor general. He has great potential as a unifier of society, which one of the most important roles for a president."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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