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Kaja Kallas tops EPL most influential Estonians list 2023

Kaja Kallas at the Reform Party general congress at which she was reelected as party leader.
Kaja Kallas at the Reform Party general congress at which she was reelected as party leader. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has placed first in daily Eesti Päevaleht's (EPL) list of 2023's most influential people, the only woman to make the top 20.

Head of think-tank Liberal Citizen Foundation (SALK) came second in the list, published Friday, while Mayor of Tallinn and now Center Party chair Mihhail Kõlvart was in third place.

The list or at least its top 20 is dominated by men, the prime minister being the only woman featuring, with a preponderance of figures from politics and business.

At the same time, inclusion high up on the list should not be viewed as a glowing endorsement in many cases – qualifying as influential are some who have been involved in controversies this year.

The prime minister came top for the second year in a row – at least half of those who took part in compiling the rankings scored Kallas most highly.

EPL dedicated multiple online articles to the leading candidates; the article covering Jüristo was headlined  "Mees, kes muutis mängu" ("The man who changed the game,") a reference to the alleged role SALK played in the run up to the March 5 Riigikogu elections and the ensuing result, which saw an all-liberal coalition comprising Reform, Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats sweep into office with 60 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu.

As for Mayor Kõlvart, while EPL calls his party, whose rating has declined in recent months and which has lost several prominent members, the year's greatest loser, the paper still picked Center's leader as third most influential figure in the land.

In fourth place comes Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander-in-chief Maj. Gen. Martin Herem, while head of state President Alar Karis is fifth.

Reclusive business tycoon Margus Linnamäe, whose interests include EPL competitor Postimees, is in sixth place, current Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) in seventh, and Isamaa leader Urmas Reinsalu eighth.

Ninth place is shared by three people, Andres Harjo, Indrek Gailan and Tiit Joost.

Gailan replaced Harjo mid-year as head of Tallinn's transport board, while Joost is a project manager at construction firm Merko Ehitus.

The trio made the list in respect of the extensive roadworks which went on all year in central Tallinn and are still not complete; again, the nomination is a tongue-in-cheek one.

The top 10 is rounded off by Gerrit Mäesalu, the prime minister's chef de cabinet.

The prime minister's spouse, Arvo Hallik, is in 11th place, the result of being at the center of controversy over his business interests, which included dealings with and in Russia at a time when the prime minister had been exhorting business to cease that activity.

Another businessman, Big Bank owner and major Isamaa donor Parvel Pruunsild is in 12th, who also became embroiled in the Metsküla school saga.

The top 20 are rounded off by Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform, 13th), Foreign Ministry Secretary General Jonatan Vseviov (14th), his counterpart at the Ministry of Defense, Kusti Salm (15th), the Villig brothers, Markus and Martin, co-founders of Bolt, in joint 17th place, businessman and Estonian Olympic Committee chair Urmas Sõõrumaa in 18th, presidential advisor Toomas Sildam in 19th and Martti Lemendik, majority stakeholder of the companies involved in the same controversy which engulfed Arvo Hallik, in 20th place.

Elsewhere on the list, Social Democrats chair and Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets is 22nd, new Eesti 200 chair and Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna is 41st, and former Center leader and former prime minister Jüri Ratas lies in 49th place.

Delfi Meedia majority owner – EPL is a part of the same group – Hans H. Luik placed 31st, socialite Brigitte Susanne Hunt came 33rd, and head of the Lutheran Church in Estonia, Archibishop Urmas Viilma, was 97th.

The top 100 was finished off by composer Arvo Pärt, swimmer Eneli Jefimova, and Riigiogu Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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