Presidential race gathers pace

  • 2001-07-12
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - With only six weeks left to Estonia's next presidential elections all of the candidates are aggressively working on their own personal political promotions, launching official Web sites and hastily publishing books.

The candidates are Peeter Kreitzberg (Center Party), Toomas Savi (Reform Party), Peeter Tulviste (Pro Patria Union), Andres Tarand (Moderates) and Arnold Ruutel (People's Union). Mati Pats, the popular grandson of Estonia's legendary first president, Konstantin Pats, is an independent candidate, and Jevgeni Tomberg and Aarand Roos run as the candidates of the United People's Party and Christian People's Party, respectively.

The front runners, Savi and Tulviste, launched their Web sites almost simultaneously two weeks ago. Tulviste, a professor of psychology, is also a poet. He published a book of poems with the obscure, and obviously very learned, Latin medical title "Vademecum" on July 9. The book is especially valuable to Tuviste fans because of an interview with him never published before.

Half of Estonian citizens see both Tulviste and Savi as suitable for the office of president. But a vocal third supports the more socially oriented Ruutel. One out of every four citizens backs Kreitzberg and one out of five supports Tarand, or so it appears from a public opinion survey carried out by the market research firm ES Turu-uuringud in June.

Pats has the support of 22 percent of Estonian citizens. The other candidates can boast only 2 or 4 percent.

"The main issue of the elections to be held this fall is not who the respondents would most like to see as president, but how suitable for the president's post any of the candidates is considered to be," ES Turu-uuringud director Juhan Kivirahk wrote in the daily Eesti Paevaleht, commenting results of the survey.

Kivirahk added that it is quite senseless to continue observing throughout the summer how Tulviste leads over Savi one moment and how Savi leads over Tulviste the next.

In Estonia, the president is chosen not by the electorate but by the Parliament.

"It's clear the public has accepted both men as suitable for the presidential post. It will a job for political jewelers to pick from them," he wrote.

The Parliament makes its historic decision on August 27. The second term of President Lennart Meri ends on October 7. Only Tulviste and Savi have any real chance. The Baltic Times asked the people of Tallinn whom they would like to see perched in the presidential seat. Interviews and snaps made by Kairi Kurm.

Mari, interviewer at a research company
I like Savi. I like people who do sports. He is attractive. He was a doctor in the past.

Marge, mother
I am for Tulviste. He's educated and sympathetic.

Rein, Tallinn Zoo manager
It's difficult to say. I think it should be Toomas Savi. With his accomplished behavior and knowledge he has left me with the impression that he can fill this position.

Johannes, project manager
It should be Tulviste. He has a faultless past. There are a lot of rumors about Savi. I wouldn't wonder if Ruutel won. He was a strong competitor to Meri during the last elections.

Hilja, pensioner
Tulviste from the Pro Patria Union. I like him. He's a very respectable man.

Gerli and Janek, students
Gerli: I don't know. "Lennu daddy" (Lennart Meri) should stay. If he can't, then from the list given I would choose Savi.
Janek: Tulviste has left the most solid impression on me.