Kersti Kaljulaid: I will continue in public life post-presidency

President Kersti Kaljulaid.
President Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: ERR

Outgoing president Kersti Kaljulaid has 40 days left in office, but far from taking herself into the wilderness, even figuratively, she intends to keep busy during that time. Kaljulaid told ERR Wednesday she had never sought reelection for its own sake, wished president-elect Alar Karis well, and said he would make an effective head of state.

At the same time, Kaljulaid said her experience should be used to Estonia's benefit in public life, after she leaves office in October.

"Such political capital shouldn't be thrown away. Without a doubt, I feel that it is now my duty to continue to commit to making Estonia better, as far as is possible, but in a different role," Kaljulaid told journalists Ode Maria Punamäe and Rannar Raba, from ERR and Tartu Postimees respectively, on Wednesday.

The outgoing president was in Estonia's second city, coincidentally the home town of the incoming president, Alar Karis.

Kaljulaid pointed out to all three of her predecessors, Lennart Meri, Arnold Rüütel and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, as examples of continuing to contribute to Estonian life well after the end of their presidencies.

"I'm not going anywhere in that sense either. I plan to continue to support all those areas that have been close to my heart, in achieving goals, and perhaps also in directing the spotlight where our society needs support," she went on.

Family was also a factor she said.

"After all, why can't I be a youthful grandmother? I also have four rather small grandchildren who would definitely like to see their grandmother more than has been possible so far," Kaljulaid, 51, added.

As to her successor, elected Tuesday, Kaljulaid said that how former University of Tartu rector Alar Karis will fare in office is up to the Estonian people to discover.

"I know Karis the rector, and Karis the auditor general; I don't know President Alar Karis, and nor does anyone else yet. The Estonian people will, however, certainly appreciate and respect their newly elected president," she continued.

As to relations with Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center), whose stint as prime minister almost coincided with Kaljulaid's as head of state, Kaljulaid listed some common achievements.

She said: "We did a lot of things together with Jüri Ratas. Together, we went forward with the synchronization of Estonian electricity networks with the European network, which is a very important issue for Estonian energy security. I would like to thank Jüri Ratas for this cooperation."

Relations between the two in office were often strained, particularly once the far-right Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) entered into office with Center and Isamaa in April 2019.

In becoming Rigiikogu speaker after the collapse of that coalition – though his party remained in office – Ratas oversaw this week's presidential elections at the Riigikogu.

Kaljulaid said she had not sought reelection for the sake of it.

"This is not what the President of the Republic should be guided by in doing their job," she told the interviewers.

"As far as errors are concerned, I would like to see any individual who has not made any mistakes over five years in the media spotlight – it has definitely happened, I think it would happen to anyone, and definitely to me," she went on.

"Once again – what has been done was not with a view to continuing the work for ten years [as president]. Never. On the contrary, it was an agreement between the whole team that we would not take such steps," she added.

Kaljulaid would have been eligible for a second consecutive, five-year term, but in the event was not nominated to run. Alar Karis ran as a sole candidate.

Kaljulaid wished Karis success, noting that she had had dealings with him in his role as rector at Tartu University, when she was the university's supervisory board chair, and as auditor general, when Kaljulaid was at the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg – her last role before becoming president in late 2016.

"I can say with absolute certainty that Estonia will be getting a good president, " she added.

Kaljulaid also praised the Riigikogu's work in organizing and holding smooth-running elections.

The outgoing president would not rule anything in or out, in the private or public sector or in politics or away from it, when questioned about her next plans.

While still president, she was linked with several high profile international jobs, with Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), being the one she got nearest to after formally announcing a bid to run last September.

She withdrew her candidacy in January this year. More recently, Kajulaid was appointed first UN Global Advocate for women and children, by Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Alar Karis will be sworn in on October 11. Kersti Kaljulaid's five-year term began October 10, 2016.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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