Four candidates left in presidential race after first round

  • 2001-09-20
  • BNS
TALLINN - Two candidates for the Estonian presidency pulled out of the competition this week, leaving four contenders in the race - Peeter Tulviste and Toomas Savi from the country's governing coalition and Peeter Kreitzberg and Arnold Ruutel from the opposition.

On Sept. 17. Matti Pats, grandson of Estonia's prewar President Konstantin Pats, withdrew. The next day the Estonian Moderate Party's candidate, Andres Tarand MP announced his withdrawal.

The Conservative Club, a non-party organization that put up Pats as its candidate, decided his withdrawal was the only way to stop the election being drawn out indefinitely, according to Mart Helme, the club's director.

The current international situation, which Helme described as "extremely critical," necessitated a speedy election.

"The electoral college is deeply split and unable to cooperate. We were astonished and shocked at how actively representatives of different political parties wished to negotiate with us on trading votes."

At a news conference Tarand said he personally favored Pro Patria Union candidate Tulviste for the post. But the Moderate Party as a whole had yet to make a decision, he said.

Tarand said his decision to quit the race was a personal one but would be formalized on Sept. 19.

Analysts said Tarand had little chance of getting through the first round of voting.

Following the latest polls by the Emor research company Tulviste is no longer favorite to win. He has lost ground, both to the Reform Party's Savi, currently speaker of the Parliament, and to the chairman of the People's Union's, Arnold Ruutel. Ruutel headed the Supreme Council of the Estonian Soviet Republic until 1991.

The electoral college of 101 MPs and 266 elected representatives of local governments will now proceed to the next round of voting, and a new president is due to be sworn in on Oct. 8.

Several politicians told the daily newspaper Eesti Paevaleht that Savi may have the support of 100 or more members of the electoral college, while Ruutel is supported by up to 100 electors.

At the electoral college round the president is elected by a simple majority of votes.