Estonian MPs fail to elect president

Estonian MPs fail to elect president
Toomas Hendrik Ilves has made the presidential palace a seat of power, especially in foreign policy.
By bne IntelliNews August 31, 2016

The Estonian parliament failed to elect a new president on August 30. The new head of the Baltic state will now be elected by an electoral college in late September.

The presidential contest continued on August 30 with two further rounds of voting in parliament, a day after the first round vote failed to produce a result. Voting along party lines in the fractured parliament, MP's delivered a stalemate, with none of the candidates able to secure the required of 68 votes in the 101-seat Riigikogu.

The election will now be decided by an electoral college of 335 votes, including MPs and representatives of local government.

Former EU commissioner Siim Kallas, who was put forward by the Reform Party - the largest party in the Estonian tripartite coalition – looks likely to battle it out with Malias Reps of the pro-Russia Centre Party, on September 24.

Kallas received 42 votes in the third and final round, while Reps took 30 votes. MPs from other parties turned in empty ballots, ERR reports.

It is possible, however, that new candidates will emerge. The Estonian media speculate that the Reform Party may instead put forward Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand as a candidate, as she is popular nationwide. The conservative EKRE party has also been reported to now be ready to forward chairman Mart Helme as a candidate.

New candidates can be considered by the electoral college if they have the support of 21 members of the college. Only the Reform and Centre Parties have such a number of sitting MPs, but other parties might reach the threshold through the votes of local government representatives. 

The new president will succeed Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms. The office of the president of Estonia is largely ceremonial. However, Ilves has managed to become a high profile representative of the small Baltic state, notably in his idiosyncratic use of twitter.

Ilves has especially been vocal in the context of renewed tensions in Eastern Europe since Russia's conflict with Ukraine launched in 2014. At times of internal political tensions, Ilves has also acted as catalyst for agreement, as was the case during government coalition talks after the election of 2015, which produced a rainbow coalition.