SDE MPs to meet with presidential candidate Alar Karis Tuesday morning
The 11 Social Democratic Party (SDE) MPs are to meet presidential candidate Alar Karis on Tuesday morning, ahead of the second ballot at the Riigikogu. Karis ran as the sole candidate Monday afternoon, picking up 63 votes, five short of the total needed to become head of state.
SDE chair Indrek Saar said Monday afternoon that: "Our Riigikogu group met after the first round of the presidential elections to discuss the situation."
"The MPs wanted to meet Alar Karis again, and ask him additional questions. We agreed with Alar Karis that he would come to meet our group on Tuesday morning," Saar went on.
Shortly before the vote went ahead, SDE MP Riina Sikkut said that she would not be voting for Karis on the grounds she didn't know enough about the candidate and his views, and had not had time to be introduced to him.
Although his name had been mentioned in media reports in connection with a bid as early on as May, Karis publicly said yes to an offer to run from Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas exactly two weeks ago, after a campaign to elect academic Tarmo Soomere fell through, due to a lack of support from the political parties.
Karis, director of the Estonian National Museum (ERM), picked up 63 votes at the 101-seat chamber. Eighty ballot sheets were handed out – the 19 MPs from the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) did not vote in round one and have their own candidate, Henn Põlluaas.
Seventy-nine ballots were cast; 16 were returned blank.
Karis has the support of all 34 Reform Party, and all 25 Center Party, MPs, leaving the coalition partners to find nine votes from SDE or Isamaa.
Reform's Siim Kallas also did not vote Monday due to ill-health. Kallas is currently hospitalized.
Isamaa Riigikogu group chair Priit Sibul said more of his party's 12 MPs voted for Karis, than against.
Voting against Karis, since he was the only candidate on the bill Monday, would have meant a blank or spoiled ballot paper, or an abstention.
A second ballot will take place Tuesday at 11.00 a.m., with nominations open 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. Tuesday morning. Karis will be running again; current president Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible for a second consecutive term.
If that ballot is also conclusive, a third vote will be held at the Riigikogu at 4 p.m. on the same day, as a run-off from the top two candidates by vote, if there are two, from Tuesday morning's ballot.
If that proves inconclusive too, the process moves to the electoral college next month, a situation Jüri Ratas as Riigikogu speaker has consistently said he wishes to avoid.
The prime minister, Kaja Kallas (Reform) has pledged to stick with Karis throughout the process.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte