Thursday. 23.05.2024

The first round of the parliamentary vote to determine who will serve for the next five years in the largely ceremonial role as Estonia's head of state has failed to produce a result.

Estonia's parliament, the Riigikogu, held a secret ballot on Monday, with sole nominee Alar Karis falling short of the necessary two-thirds majority to be confirmed in the role.

The former scientist and current director of the Estonian National Museum, Karis received the support of 63 of the 94 lawmakers present. A further 16 members abstained.

Under Estonia's constitution, parliament must vote again on Tuesday in a second and, if necessary, a third ballot. New candidates can be nominated for each of these.

Karis is in the race for the presidency on behalf of the governing coalition, which consists of the economically liberal Reform Party and the left-leaning Centre Party. The two parties are Estonia's two leading political forces - they hold 59 of the 101 parliamentary seats.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced before the first ballot that her Reform Party would continue to support Karis as candidate even if he failed to win a two-thirds majority in the first round.

Opposition unconvinced

"Tomorrow is another day," Karis said afterwards, adding that the vote had confirmed he had the support of the coalition, but that the opposition was still unconvinced. Nevertheless, he would not start calling MPs or canvassing for support, Karis said.

If no candidate receives the necessary number of votes after three rounds of voting, a special electoral college, in which local politicians make up the majority, will be convened within a month. 

Estonia's current president is Kersti Kaljulaid. Polls show broad public support for the 51-year-old serving a second five-year term in the position, and even though Kaljulaid herself has also shown interest in remaining in post, she currently lacks sufficient support in parliament.

Parliamentary vote for new Estonian president fails to produce result