Finance Minister eyes seat in European Parliament

  • 2008-10-29
  • By Matt Withers
TALLINN - Ivari Padar, Estona's finance minister and chairman of the Estonian Social Democratic Party, has confirmed his desire to run for a seat at the European Parliament in next year's elections.
Padar said the Social Democrats will not finalize their list of contenders for the election until March next year, and while confessing an eagerness for candidacy, he has stressed that the decision rests on the shoulders of his fellow party members. Speaking on Oct. 26, Pader told press that the party's judgment would be final.
"My candidacy will be decided by the whole party and Social Democrats need to consider these things. If they find I'm a good candidate I'll definitely run in the elections," he said.

Analysts are anticipating the 2009 election to be a major political showdown, with parties expected to put forward big-name candidates.
"In this situation political parties are bringing out all their big guns and going 'va banque.' We may see Ansip run in two elections next year, the Reform Party's rating is falling and they need a flagship to lead them through the tough times," said one observer.

Padar's announcement adds pressure to the finalizing of the Social Democrats' list of candidates, as there are already three other prominent party members vying for the seat. Katrin Saks and Marianne Mikko currently represent Estonia in the European Parliament and have both indicated their ambitions for re-election, while Sven Mikser, chairman of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has also made a bid for candidacy.
While any party can submit up to 12 candidates, current law entails that the 2009 election will be conducted by the closed-list method 's meaning Estonians will vote for parties rather than individuals. Following the election, seat allocation is determined by the preferentially ranked list of candidates pre-submitted by the successful parties.

The importance of producing an optimized list has heightened importance for the Social Democrats. The party enjoyed overwhelming success at the 2004 election, landing three of six seats and 36.8 percent of the vote, clearly outstripping candidates from the ruling government.
Some political analysts have attributed the Social Democrats' success to Estonia's low voter turnout 's one of the lowest in the EU at only 26.8 percent 's claiming that the result was not representative of the population at large.

The Social Democrats achieved their victory within the framework of an open-list election; a system that benefits smaller parties as voting is anchored on the strength of individual candidates. Estonian law prescribed closed-list elections in 2002, but this was controversially overturned immediately before the 2004 election for the European Parliament.
The current legislative implementation of closed-list European elections was imposed in November 2006 by the then collation parties Reform, Center and the People's Union, despite Pro Patria Union, Res Publica and the Social Democrats voting against the motion.

The parliamentary Constitutional Committee has launched a bill to revert to the open lists system.
The election for the European Parliament is scheduled to take place on June 7, 2009.