TALLINN - Estonia’s deputy parliamentary speaker Ene Ergma narrowly failed yesterday in her bid to be elected president of the Baltic state by her fellow lawmakers, paving the way for a fresh vote with a different candidate.
Ergma, 62, a relative newcomer to politics, garnered 65 votes in the 101-member legislature, three voices short of the 68 votes required to take up the office of the largely figurehead presidency.
"As Ene Ergma did not receive a two-thirds majority in parliament, the national election commission has decided not to consider her elected into office," Heiki Sibul, chairman of the election commission, told parliament.
Lawmakers will vote in a second round today, when the four parties that backed Ergma – the centre-right Reform Party, Pro Patria, and Res Publica, as well as the Social-Democratic Party – will nominate European lawmaker and former foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves, 52, as their new candidate.
But the second round is also likely to be inconclusive, as two left-leaning parties – the Centre Party and the People’s Union – have said their lawmakers will abstain, just as they did during the vote for Ergma yesterday.
If the parliamentary vote is inconclusive today, voting will go to a 347-member electoral college, made up of the 101 members of parliament and 246 representatives of local government.
President Arnold Ruutel has said that he would stand for re-election, only if the presidential vote goes to the electoral college round.
The Centre Party and People’s Union have called on their lawmakers to abstain in the parliamentary rounds of voting, because they back 78-year-old Ruutel’s candidacy. The incumbent is widely expected to win the electoral college round.
Ergma said that she is .........
...... happy with the support she received in Monday’s vote, but unhappy that two parties abstained. She called for a change in the way Estonia’s president is elected.
"I’m very happy that I received the full support of the parties that nominated me," she told reporters after the vote.
"But I’m also very unhappy over the decision of two parties, which did not vote at all.
"We need to change the law to introduce direct presidential elections by the people," she said. "That way, we could avoid the deadlock that we have now."
The parliamentary rounds of the two previous presidential votes in Estonia were also inconclusive.
Ruutel was elected by an electoral college in 2001, as was his predecessor, Lennart Meri, in 1996, when the present system of electing the president of the Baltic state was introduced.
In 1992, Lennart Meri was elected by parliament after a popular vote proved inconclusive.