SDE unveils top candidates list

Some of SDE's main candidates. Centre: Jevgeni Ossinovski. Left, from top:  Rainer Vakra, Helmen Kütt, Ivari Padar. Right, from top: Indrek Tarand, Marina Kaljurand and Madis Kallas.
Some of SDE's main candidates. Centre: Jevgeni Ossinovski. Left, from top: Rainer Vakra, Helmen Kütt, Ivari Padar. Right, from top: Indrek Tarand, Marina Kaljurand and Madis Kallas. Source: ERR

Coalition partner the Social Democratic party (SDE) has announced its top riders for the March 2019 elections in Estonia's 12 electoral districts, though its full list will be confirmed in December, the party says.

There are no real surprises on a well-stocked list which includes the recently-attracted Indrek Tarad, currently still an independent MEP. Mr Tarand, whilst standing for SDE, has not as yet become a party member.

Since the system in Estonia is a PR system based on the d'Hondt method, in all three types of national elections (EU, General, Local), where votes for a party are redistributed amongst its candidates, it makes sense to have 'flagship' figures to garner enough votes in each district (save the EU elections, where Estonia is treated as a single district) giving the excess votes over the quota needed to secure a seat, to other, less popular candidates.

Celebrity candidates

This often leads to parties running celebrities from another field whose political sense or experience could be queried. Recent examples* include former sumo star Baruto, Kaido Höövelson, standing for the Centre Party, and former Olympic cross-country skier Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, on Reform's list.

SDE has not gone down that route yet, and probably needn't – recent acquisitions Indrek Tarand and Marina Kaljurand are both seasoned veterans of the Estonian political scene, with Ms Kaljurand a former ambassador to Moscow as well as an erstwhile presidential candidate.

That said, culture minister Indrek Saar is a former theatre actor and director and TV soap star and has been a party stalwart, and possible leader, for some time.

Candidates list

In addition to Mr Saar and Mr Tarand, running in Lääne and Pärnu Counties respectively, SDE's top candidates are as follows:

Tallinn city

  • City Centre, Lasnamäe and Pirita: Jevgeni Ossinovski (current party leader).
  • Haabersti, North Tallinn, and Kristiine: Sven Mikser (current foreign minister).
  • Mustamäe and Nõmme: Rainer Vakr.​

 Rest of Estonia:

  • Ida Viru County: Andres Anvelt (current interior minister).
  • Jõgeva and Tartu Counties: Eiki Nestor (current speaker of the house).
  • Võru, Valga and Põlva Counties: Ivari Padar (current MEP).
  • Harju and Rapla Counties: Marina Kaljurand.
  • Hiiu, Lääne and Saare Counties: Madis Kallas.
  • Järva and Viljandi Counties: Helmen Kütt.

 SDE thus have quite a roster of candidates, though one notable absentee from the list so far is current health minister Riina Sikkut. SDE's support currently stands at 14% by some estimates; curiously enough the same figure as its number of Riigikogu seats. The champion of social tax, health service improvements and the less-popular alcohol excise duty, as well as the arch-nemesis of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), expect SDE to be in office after the general election.

Not the only party to have announced its main list

The Reform Party has already announced all 12 of its top candidates for each district.

 Each party may run two more than the candidate list quota for that district, so for example 14 candidates on a district with a quota of 12 would be maximum, with the two candidates receiving the smallest number of votes stuck off the list immediately. See here for a more detailed explanation of the electoral system in Estonia.

Since ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu, but are permitted to run in the elections, existing ones such as Indrek Saar or Sven Mikser are obvious vote pullers. If they clinch a seat and remain in office (or if any elected MP is appointed minister) the seat is transferred to the candidate with the next highest amount of votes on the list. Conversely if a minister steps down, the benchwarmer MP has to make way for them to return to the Riigkokgu (as happened this year when Urve Palo, also of SDE, resigned as entrepreneurship minister).

The general election is on 3 March, 2019. The EU parliamentary election is held in two phases in late May 2019.

Presidential elections are not direct and follow a series of ballots at the Riigikogu, the electoral college in the districts if the former are found wanting, the Riigikogu again and, in the case of the current President, a direct appointment if stalemate occurs.

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*though this is no comment on the political acumen of the as-yet untested Mr Höövelson or Ms Šmigun-Vähi.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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