TALLINN - Five parties, searching for a common candidate to elect president in Parliament, have left Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ene Ergma, who represents Res Publica, and Socialist MEP Toomas Hendrik Ilves on their list.
As of July 19, the parties' shortlist included four candidates, of whom Tartu University Rector Jaak Aaviksoo and businessman Jaan Manitski were dropped.
"Today we can say that a common candidate will definitely be found. The only thing still open is whether it's going to be a candidate of four parties or five parties represented in Parliament," Rain Rosimannus, vice chairman of the Reform Party told the Baltic News Service.
He said that, as long as none of the candidates have been rejected by any party, the likelihood of a consensus remains at 50 percent. Social Democrat Eiki Nestor and Taavi Veskimagi, co-chairman of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, were glad that candidates from their parties had made it to the final shortlist.
"Both candidates are good," Nestor said. Ilves, he said, had an especially good chance of getting elected. He recalled that the vice chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee had been named as their candidate also by the Reform Party and Pro Patria Union. "Ilves also has broad support among the people," Nestor added.
Veskimagi said that, despite the Center Party's decision to start negotiations with People's Union, he is optimistic about the possibility of getting the president elected in Parliament.
"Of course it requires a lot of work to get 68 votes behind one candidate in the Riigikogu (Estonia's parliament), but we will continue in that direction," he said.
Center Party's Ain Seppik told reporters that both the remaining candidates were attractive. He hailed the process of searching for a common candidate as constructive, but wouldn't offer any clues as regards to the Center's next moves.
"That will be decided by the party's governing board," he said.
Ruling coalition members Reform Party and Center Party, as well as the opposition Pro Patria Union, Res Publica and Social Democratic Party, started the search for a mutually acceptable candidate last spring.
Of the 12 names proposed, Reform's Mayor of Tartu Laine Janes, Pro Patria Union MP Peeter Tulviste, non-aligned MP Liina Tonisson, chairman of the board of Eesti Telekom Jaan Mannik and speaker of the parliament Toomas Varek, of the Center Party, were eliminated in May.
The next round of talks on June 28 left out Reform's Population Minister Paul-Eerik Rummo, Centrist MP Enn Eesmaa and another Center Party member, Tartu city council chairman Aadu Must.
The final candidate for the parliamentary round of voting is scheduled to be selected by the parties on Aug. 3. Riigikogu will hold the first round of election on Aug. 28, while the electoral college that will elect the president if Parliament fails in that task would convene some time in late September.
People's Union, the sixth party having seats in Parliament, is not taking part in the search for a common candidate and stands for the re-election of incumbent President Arnold Ruutel.
Ruutel, 78, announced that he wouldn't run in the parliamentary round of voting but would agree to be named as candidate if the task of electing the president passes to the electoral college.