Unlike USA, Estonia cheap to become President

Gert Siniloo
, reporter
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In the United States of America, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on presidential campaigns. In Estonia, those running seek to keep spending near zero. 

«No expenses needed thus far,» said Soc Dems candidate Eiki Nestor. All his helpers works for free.

Freewill voluntary labour was also affirmed by Andreas Kaju heading the Marina Kaljurand campaign. «Which was my condition to join the campaign,» he added while assessing staff to be the main cost for others who have hired consultants for money. Mr Kaju thinks they have spent below €1,000 up to now, lion’s share being ads in social media.

Among candidates talking to Postimees, the largest sum was cited by Mailis Reps of Centre Party. «Costs to arrange meetings and print brochures to present the programme are at about €5,000,» she said. Ms Reps said her party provides the money.

Like Ms Reps, EKRE’s Mart Helme intends not to hire a PR company. «I do my own campaign,» said Mr Helme, assisted however by his son Martin and others in the party.

Public relations specialist Taavi Linnamäe working for Allar Jõks claimed time was the main commodity spent. «As for other costs, Mr Jõks makes these according to need and opportunity,» said Mr Linnamäe, adding that while disclosing campaign costs is unregulated, Mr Jõks vows to make his known – provided others do likewise.

Monitoring the elections, MEP Indrek Tarand thinks even this to be too much. «This travelling around in counties is grotesque and trampling on the spirit of the Constitution as we have no candidate as yet,» he said. Having run for President personally in 2011, Mr Tarand says he never spent a cent. «Perhaps it cost something to drive to the TV studio from home, but that was all.»

Political scientist Vello Pettai opines it would indeed make no sense to throw an US style campaign in Estonia. That is, as long as the head of state is elected at Riigikogu and electoral body. Even so, he says candidates should seek to catch the public eye. «They might still meet people, to present the candidate’s views, and thereby to indirectly impact decision makers,» he said.

As assessed by Mr Pettai, Estonian parties might have clearer procedures for setting up candidates. «Dragging their feet like Reform ought not to be allowed as this indeed does create the impression of it all being but horse trading between the parties,» he noted. Mr Pettai is of the opinion that the campaigns would gain added credibility if all candidates would be known a minimum of three months before the elections.