New president in seven months

  • 2001-01-18
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Seven months left until Estania's next presidential election, and the race is about to begin. However, none of the parties have officially approved their candidates for the presidency.

According to Kullo Arjakas, secretary general for the Center Party, most of the parties will reveal their official candidates later this spring, between March and May.

The youth assembly of the Center Party, the main Estonian opposition party, began the election campaign on Jan. 10 and nominated party chairman Edgar Savisaar as the main candidate for president. The party's full delegation is to approve its candidate in the end of February.

The Reform Party presented four possible candidates at a special forum dedicated to the elections and recently launched on their Web site. The party offers Finance Minister Siim Kallas, Justice Minister Mart Rask, Parliamentary Speaker Toomas Savi and MP Toomas Vilosius as probable candidates.

The Reform Party officially stated it will let the people decide which candidate will be the official one.

The Pro Patria Union will back MP Tunne Kelam. Rumors that Matti Pats, a member of the Union, head of the Estonian Patent Bureau and grandson of the first Estonian president Konstantin Pats, is a possible second candidate irritated the Pro Patria Union, according to reports.

The Estonian Conservative Club, a political union established half a year ago, recently proposed Matti Pats as an independent and alternative candidate for the presidency.

The Estonian National Electoral Committee has commented on the procedure of the two previous presidential election campaigns.

The first presidential election campaign since Estonia regained independence was held in September 1992.

According to the constitution, the president represents Estonia in foreign relations, but he was also given the right to approve or not approve laws, as well as designating a candidate for prime minister. The election of 1992 took place simultaneously with the parliamentary elections.

The candidates had to present 10,000 signatures from eligible voters (over the age of 18).

As no candidate polled more than the required half of the votes cast, the two candidates with the most votes were presented to the parliament. The parliament had to choose between Lennart Meri, supported by the government coalition, and Arnold Ruutel, President of the Estonian Supreme Council, who had some suppect from the opposition; on October 5, 1992. The recently elected parliament elected Meri 59-31.

Meri, the former Estonian ambassador to Finland, became the first president elected according to the Estonian Constitution of 1992.

Under the law on the application of the Constitution of 1992, the first post-occupation president's term was shortened to four years, a year less than in the coming election.

Meri also won the last election on Sept. 20, 1996 defeating his old competitor Ruutel by 70 votes.