Poll: Lennart Meri most, Toomas Hendrik Ilves least popular president ({{commentsTotal}})

Artist Karin Pihlik's heads of presidents, made out of felt.
Artist Karin Pihlik's heads of presidents, made out of felt. Source: Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

Daily Postimees and the Baltic News Service wanted to know which of Estonia's presidents enjoy the highest approval among Estonians. The winner is Lennart Meri with 64.5 percent, far ahead of his successors.

Lennart Meri (1929-2006), who was the country's first head of state after it regained its independence from the Soviet Union, is generally extremely well-respected in Estonia, with plenty of his speeches and actions having become modern legends. Meri was president from 1992 to 2001.

Airport washrooms and President George H.W. Bush's globe

Stories passed around about President Meri include an occasion in the mid-1990s, when the head of state arrived at Tallinn Airport just getting back from a visit abroad.

As the story goes, Meri invited reporters waiting for him to one of the airport's washrooms, where he improvised a press conference on the kind of detail that had the potential to discourage foreign investors. The washrooms hadn't been renovated since Soviet times, a matter that apparently was rectified shortly after.

Another story puts Meri in the White House, where he and President George H.W. Bush apparently talked about fishing. Meri allegedly took a pencil and marked a particularly good spot on the Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka on a globe in Bush's office. The next time he stopped by, someone had placed the globe high up on a shelf. A more patriotic version of this legend has Meri mark the location of Estonia on the globe.

Meri's successors, predecessor unable to keep up

Meri is the most popular post-occupation president across all ethnic groups, parts of the country, and generations, Postimees wrote (link in Estonian).

He is followed by President Arnold Rüütel, his immediate successor, who was in office from 2001 to 2006. Rüütel enjoys a 10.8-percent approval with Estonians. Incumbent President Kersti Kaljulaid still gets 5.8 percent, while her predecessor, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, comes in last with 3.3 percent.

The country's first president, Konstantin Päts, in office from 1938 to 1940 and often criticized for introducing authoritarian rule and censorship, got 3.9 percent.

Editor: Dario Cavegn



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