SDE MP: Our presidential votes are not up for sale

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Riina Sikkut and Jaanus Karilaid (right) on Monday's 'Esimene stuudio', with host Mirko Ojakivi. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) Riina Sikkut has flatly denied claims by Center Party Riigikogu group leader Jaanus Karilaid that her party was looking to bargain with the coalition for something in return for voting for presidential candidate Alar Karis.

Sikkut also rejects claims Karilaid made that Reform and Center voted as one in favor of Karis, saying that there were some dissenting MPs at Monday afternoon's ballot.

Appearing on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Monday night, Riina Sikkut said: "I don't understand what this nonsense is. Our votes aren't for sale."

"In fact, we have been very constructive and statesmanlike in not outright saying no to Alar Karis, and in supporting getting the election finished at the Riigikogu. And that is what we have done," she went on.

Sikkut was responding to comments by Jaanus Karilaid, also appearing on "Esimene stuudio", that if SDE was expecting something in return for voting for national museum director Alar Karis, the coalition's official candidate, they would be disappointed.

He said: "We are not going to ask you for votes. We are not going to do any horse trading, don't expect that."

Alar Karis is backed by all 25 Center MPs and all 34 Reform MPs. Reform and Center are in coalition together.

However, the two parties need at least nine more votes to reach the 68 required to elect a president at the Riigikogu.

These would need to come either from SDE or from Isamaa, both in opposition.

The other opposition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is going it alone with its own presidential candidate and did not even pick up ballot papers on Monday.

Karis picked up 63 votes Monday afternoon in the first round ballot, five short of the total.

Riina Sikkut, who said Monday afternoon that she would personally not vote for Karis as she and the party hadn't had time to get acquainted with him as a candidate, told "Esimene stuudio" that the party does not reject Karis, but add they should not be honor-bound to vote for him just because the coalition say so.

"We have no moral obligation to guarantee all our votes for Alar Karis. This is not a joint candidate," Sikkut said.

Karis was the sole candidate running Monday – EKRE's candidate, Henn Põlluaas, could not get the 21 votes required to run, while no other nominations were received.

SDE and Isamaa leading members have recently complained that while their own presidential candidate proposals were rolled over by the two coalition parties, the latter expected them to fall in line with Karis.

On the other hand, both parties' leaders said their MPs could vote as they wished.

Sikkut: We are not playing delaying game to get Kersti Kaljulaid on ticket

Sikkut said Monday evening that there was no strategy in place on her party's part to delay until Kersti Kaljulaid could get nominated.

"No, we are not playing a double game. We have no secret plan to postpone the election," Sikkut said.

Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible for a second consecutive term, while SDE has said that she would be a preferred candidate, along with the party's own MEP and 2016 candidate, Marina Kaljurand.

Jaanus Karilaid said that the votes from outside the coalition had come from Isamaa.

He said: "I would also like to thank the five Isamaa allies who gave us their vote. We know that the five votes of Isamaa, the total votes of the Center Party and the Reform Party come to 63."

The coalition was down one vote Monday due to Reform MP Siim Kallas' illness. Kallas is currently hospitalized and was unable to come to the Riigikogu to vote in person, the only option in this election.

As the ballot is secret, who voted how can often only be deduced.

Karilaid said that all 58 voting coalition MPs did so for Karis, and that if he does not get elected on Tuesday, he would get more votes at the later electoral college rounds which would follow.

Karilaid added that he hoped SDE, whose MPs meet with Karis Tuesday morning, will pick up more arguments in favor of voting for him.

Sikkut reaffirmed that SDE's votes were not for sale and that some SDE members are in favor of Karis as president.

"We have people who supported Alar Karist last week, supported today and will support tomorrow," Sikkut added, confirming the party's members want to get a picture of how Karis sees the role of president.

She also cast doubt on Reform and Center being unified on Karis.

She said: "I am absolutely certain that the Reform Party and the Center Party missed some votes today," qualifying this by arguing it makes no sense to enumerate MPs and how they might have voted, especially as SDE and Isamaa had not made any agreement with the coalition.

"If there had been a joint candidate of the four parties, everyone would really have a duty to ensure that that person was elected," she said.

The second ballot takes place at 11.00 a.m. Tuesday, with nominations open at the time of writing, through to 10.00 a.m.

Alar Karis is running, no other candidate has been nominated at the time of writing.

If this ballot is inconclusive too, a third run-off ballot takes place at 4 p.m. Tuesday between the top two candidates by votes – if there are two. Again, Alar Karis will be running in this ballot if it comes.

If this draws a blank too, the process continues with the electoral college rounds within a month.

Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center) has consistently said he wants to avoid this eventuality.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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