Karis: I will communicate with all political forces

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New president-elect Alar Karis at the post-electoin press conference. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia's new president-elect Alar Karis said on Tuesday he intends to communicate with all political forces in the country.

Speaking at a press conference at the Riigikogu immediately after his election, Karis, who was the sole candidate, said: "I am the president, I will try to communicate with all political forces and find a way for Estonia to develop further."

Estonia is in a situation where both domestic and foreign policy need dealing with, he added.

Karis, 63, also called Tuesday's result, with 72 votes in favor of him at the 101-seat Riigikogu, a completely fair outcome.

He said that he would deal with putting together his staff as a matter of urgency, and would also be hiring an in-house legal adviser.

Karis also said that he would communicate with the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia in their mother tongue, when the time came.

He said: "I promise there will come a time when I will communicate with the Russian community, in the Russian language."

As to what he thinks the nation expects of him, Karis said that this is for the Estonian state to develop well, and for Estonia to be a safe place to live.

Karis said he was in favor of making any reforms to the very process which got him elected sooner, rather than later, and certainly before the next presidential election in 2026.

"I think we should go ahead with this process, not wait another five years," he said, reiterating comments made in interviews earlier.

Karis will also follow the example set by his predecessors, he said.

"Everyone has had something to bring to the table, and I will add to that," he told the press pack.

He also repeated a vision he had announced last week, where the Estonian nation would become a smart and educated people.

As to whether he would propose to the far-right Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to form a government, if they to emerged winners in the next general election, Karis said that that party is developing, and in connection with that, we must also talk about its forming a government.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) told ETV just before the press conference that the opposition and coalition parties had found enough common ground to find enough votes to get Karis elected. Kallas said she wished him well, as did Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas, also talking to ETV.

Ratas also thanked outgoing president Kersti Kaljulaid for her work.

The Center Party recently said it will table a bill to make presidents elected directly by the people, a policy the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has also proposed.

Kaljulaid had for some years been using a private legal firm instead of having a lawyer on her staff.

EKRE declined to take part in both the ballot which elected Karis on Tuesday and in Monday's vote, where Karis narrowly missed out.

EKRE put up its own candidate, former speaker Henn Põlluaas, but lacked the required 21 votes needed to be nominated to run.

The party has been in office at the national level before, with Center and Isamaa from April 2019 to January this year, but with 19 seats, compared with Center's 25, was not the largest in the coalition.

Reports that Karis had agreed to Jüri Ratas' proposal to formally run only appeared two weeks ago.

He was backed by both coalition parties, Reform and Center, but between them the parties have 59 votes, nine short of the 68 needed.

This meant that, with EKRE out of the picture, votes from the opposition Isamaa and Social Democrats (SDE) were required.

While the latter in particular were lukewarm to Karis' candidacy, preferring a second term for Kersti Kaljulaid, the party met with Karis again Tuesday morning.

In any case Karis got enough votes – 72 – in Tuesday morning's second ballot to get elected, and to head off a third ballot Tuesday afternoon.

Karis is a former auditor general and a former rector both of the University of Tartu and of the Estonian University of Life Sciences (Eesti Maaülikool), also in Tartu.

You can read more about him in this bio ERR News put together here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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