Riigikogu fails to elect Karis in round one of presidential election

Alar Karis said after the vote that his nerves are just fine.
Alar Karis said after the vote that his nerves are just fine. Photo: Pilt videost

The first round of the 2021 presidential election did not see the 101-member parliament elect former Auditor General, Director of the Estonian National Museum Alar Karis Estonia’s next president.

Karis got 63 votes but required 68 or two-thirds of Riigikogu votes to be elected.

Alar Karis said after the vote that his nerves are just fine and that while he believes no one needs additional convincing, he is always happy to answer questions politicians might have. He admitted that being elected in the first round would have been easier but said he remains committed to the process right down to the election moving to the Electoral College.

President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas (Center Party) said that Karis is five votes short ahead of the second round of voting that is set to commence at 12 p.m. on Tuesday. I’m sure there will be various discussions in the coming hours. While we might try and divine where we fell short on votes, there is no sense in it.”

The ruling Reform Party and Center Party who proposed Karis’ candidacy have 59 seats in the Riigikogu, while several opposition Isamaa delegates had promised to support Karis before voting started at 1 p.m. on Monday. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) has 11 seats in the parliament. The largest opposition force, the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), backs its own candidate Henn Põlluaas, with its MPs abstaining from voting on Monday.

Reform Party leader, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that EKRE should allow its MPs to vote according to their conscience. “We know three of their delegates have said they would like to support Karis. Secondly, I sincerely hope that the leaders of Isamaa and SDE will stop playing these games, while I suppose we need to discuss what could motivate them to do so. In a situation where we have an independent candidate, I would hate for the election to become so much horse-trading.” Kallas assured the press that the Reform Party and indeed the coalition was behind Karis as one.

EKRE MPs Moonika Helme and Kert Kingo said that while they have nothing against Alar Karis, the party will continue supporting its candidate Henn Põlluaas for president. Põlluaas told Postimees that an election sporting a single candidate is more akin to an appointment and that he believes he is still in with a chance. “It is entirely possible the process will end up in the Electoral College where I will be among the candidates again,” the former Riigikogu speaker said.