Unlike most democracies with a separate head of state and head of government, Estonia does not elect the former by popular vote, but by a convoluted process in parliament. Euronews reported last week that, if it had been up to the people,
incumbent president Kersti Kaljulaid would be re-elected for a second, five-year term.[in a] recent poll by Kantar Emor, Kaljulaid got the highest proportion of first-choice votes (37% of respondents). In addition, 51% of survey respondents put her in their top three.
How powerful is Estonia's president?
In Estonia, the president’s most powerful capacity is to send law proposals back to the parliament if deemed in need of changes. She or he also plays a major role in representing the country abroad.
The charismatic Kaljulaid, a long-time member of the European Court of Auditors, was an unexpected candidate five years ago, getting elected in the sixth round of voting. She has since convinced Estonia with her down-to-earth demeanour, unwavering opinions and humour.
The parliament elects
Kaljulaid has repeatedly stated she is available for a second term. But in the presidential election system of the small Baltic nation, the 101 members of the parliament (the Riigikogu) will make the decision. It’s not even up to Kaljulaid to announce her own candidacy.
In other words: one could want to become president of Estonia, but one first needs MPs for support. A party can nominate a willing candidate with 21 votes [in the first round of voting a] nominee needs to secure 68 out of 101 votes (a two-thirds majority). If no one reaches this number, one or two more votes will be held the day after. To make things even more uncertain, new candidates can be added to the roster at several moments during this process.