AK: Isamaa Riigikogu group chair urges SDE to get on board with Karis

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Isamaa Riigikogu group chair Priit Sibul at Monday's vote. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Two opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SDE) and Isamaa, hold the cards to getting national museum director Alar Karis elected president at the Riigikogu on Tuesday. While SDE has not expressed enthusiasm towards Karis so far, Isamaa's Riigikogu group leader is urging SDE to get on board and to vote for him, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Monday evening.

SDE's leader Indrek Saar told AK he doesn't think support for Karis from his party will be unanimous in the second ballot.

"Given how thoroughly we talked about this issue in our organization, I feel that it is quite difficult to imagine such a consensual decision," he said.

SDE has stated it would have preferred either a second term for Kersti Kaljulaid, who has not yet been nominated to run, or for its own MEP and 2016 candidate Marina Kaljurand.

At the same time SDE's Riigikogu group is meeting Karis Tuesday morning ahead of the second Riigikogu ballot.

Isamaa's group chair at parliament Priit Sibul, however, has issued a rallying call for getting Karis elected on Tuesday.

He told AK that: "Our wish is to elect the president at the Riigikogu, and we also call on the Social Democrats to support President Karis tomorrow."

Sibul said earlier Monday that more Isamaa MPs had voted for Karis than against him on Monday. Since Karis was the sole candidate, the alternative to voting for him was an abstention or a blank or spoiled ballot paper.

The two coalition parties, Reform and Center, are sticking with Karis after Monday's ballot saw him miss out on the presidency by five votes.

Mart Võrklaev, Reform's Riigikogu group chair, told AK that: "We are at a place now where we will certainly communicate both at the level of MPs and at the level of Riigikogu party group leaders, to try to understand what happened and whether we will see an improvement tomorrow. There is still a clear desire to elect a president tomorrow."

Center chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas told AK that it was his belief that it is in the interests of the four parties – his own, Reform, SDE and Isamaa – to elect the head of state at the Riigikogu, adding that he saw this as still a realistic goal.

"It has all been stated by the chairmen of at least four parties that the president will be elected in the Riigikogu and I believe that efforts will be made for that," Ratas said.

Reform and Center with 59 votes between them need another nine votes from SDE and/or Isamaa to reach the 68 votes required to elect a president.

SDE and Isamaa together have 23 seats.

Should Isamaa's 12 MPs vote for Karis, he would obtain enough mandates (71) assuming all Reform and Center MPs vote in the same way, to get elected, even if SDE did not support his candidacy.

Reform was missing one MP, Siim Kallas, at Monday's vote. Kallas is unwell and in hospital.

The other opposition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has put up its own candidate, former speaker Henn Põlluaas, and declined to vote on Monday.

Karis was the sole candidate on the table Monday, and is running again in Tuesday morning's ballot, which starts at 11.00 a.m. If this round draws a blank as well, a third ballot is held Tuesday afternoon at 4.00 p.m.

ERR News has put together a bio of Alar Karis here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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