Many Estonian political party leaders are considering running in the European Parliament elections next spring, with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) being the only unlikely candidate.
"Of course, as party leader, I will run. I want to support my party and encourage as many Center Party supporters as possible to vote," Jüri Ratas, chair of the opposition Center Party, said.
The vice chair of the major opposition right-wing populist party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Henn Põlluaas, said that the party's leader, Martin Helme, might run for the best possible result.
"Because we want two of the seven places allotted to Estonia, we need to field the strongest possible team. I believe [party leader] Martin Helme could be on the list," he told ERR. Jaak Madison, member of EKRE currently in the European Parliament, already announced his candidacy. Also Põlluaas hinted about the possibility of running for office himself.
Lauri Läänemets, chair of the Social Democratic Party (SDE), told ERR: "Of course, it would be ambitious and I like such things, but I am not sure if I will do it."
Current SDE MEP Marina Kaljurand, on the other hand, has confirmed that she will definitely stand.
Reili Rand, the SDE's general secretary, told ERR that the party intends to review the list of candidates for the European Parliament, and that the list's principles will be approved at the summer council meeting. "We have not yet had any formal negotiations with potential candidates but there are people who have expressed interest already and there are others who should be encouraged to run," she said. "We will begin working on the list in the fall; however, the general meeting where it will be confirmed is not scheduled until the first quarter of next year, so it is unlikely to be in place until February or March."
Isamaa chair Urmas Reinsalu said that his party's list of candidates could be revealed in the spring and he did not rule out a bid for office. "Of course, we also want Isamaa to be represented in the European Parliament, which requires a strong list. At the moment there are no candidates; we are preparing the list," he said.
Reinsalu, when asked if he would also run as a candidate, responded, "It can't be ruled out, because the most important thing is to get a good result as a political party, and we will do everything possible to achieve that — if the party deems it necessary for me to run as a candidate, I will do so without hesitation. I would also like to point out that Riho Terras (Isamaa member - ed. ), who is probably the first Four Star General MEP, has done a good job there."
Timo Suslov, general secretary of the Reform Party, told ERR that the party's list of candidates will be compiled as usual through internal elections, which will take place at the end of autumn or in the winter. Suslov added that incumbent MEPs Andrus Ansip and Urmas Paet, who have declared their intention to run for the European Parliament again, will also be required to run in internal elections.
When asked if the party chair could also run for office, Suslov replied, "Kaja Kallas has made it clear that she will not leave her position as prime minister; I haven't heard that she is considering running for any office."
Lauri Hussar, chair of the progressive liberal Eesti 200, was more equivocal in his response to a question about his possible candidacy, saying through a spokesperson: "The chair of the party will certainly play a significant role in the European Parliament elections, both in shaping ideological positions, making campaign decisions and ensuring the voice of Eesti 200 voters is heard in Europe."
When asked about the candidacy of the ministerial members of Eesti 200, Hussar said, "The most important thing for the candidates is their expertise and orientation in European politics, as well as their desire to represent the interests of Estonian voters in the European Parliament as effectively as possible."
Hussar said that the list of candidates for Eesti 200 will be authorized by the party's leadership no later than April 2024. Hussar added that the aim of the Eesti 200 is to receive at least 7 percent of the votes cast in Estonia.
Lavly Perling, chair of the extra-parliamentary fiscal conservative Parempoolsed, told ERR that the party intends to run in the European Parliament elections, but that the party has yet to do a thorough review of the matter."However, we have already begun talking to people and discussing EU issues," she said.
"I will be able give a more detailed response in the fall; however, it comes as obvious that as the party's leader, I am prepared to run," Perling said.
Evelyn Sepp, co-leader of the extra-parliamentary Estonian Greens, told ERR that the Greens take the upcoming European Parliament elections very seriously, given the increasing significance of environmental and broader security issues in Estonia and throughout Europe.
"Of course, we are still in the process of preparing the list, but the goal is to bring together some of the best people on the full list who would be of real assistance in advocating for these issues," Sepp said. "Party leaders' participation in this process will be essential, but our role in the campaign will become clear during the preparatory work," she added.
Next year's European Parliament elections will be held from May 6 to May 9. In Estonia, seven MEPs will be elected. A party list may include up to 14 candidates, or twice the number of seats allocated to Estonia.
Andrus Ansip and Urmas Paet (Reform), Marina Kaljurand and Sven Mikser (SDE), Yana Toom (Centre), Jaak Madison (EKRE) and Riho Terras (Isamaa) are the Estonians currently elected to the European Parliament.
Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa