Estonia’s Parliament fails to elect president in first round

Estonia’s Parliament on Monday failed to elect a new president to the Baltic country after lawmakers rejected the only candidate in the first round of voting Monday.

Alar Karis, director of the Estonian National Museum, received support from 63 lawmakers with 16 blank votes and the rest either absent or abstaining in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature. He needed a two-thirds majority, or 68 votes, to be elected in the secret ballot.

The result means that further rounds of voting will be held on Tuesday.

The 63-year-old Karis, a former state auditor and university head, was the only candidate running in the election to succeed Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia’s first female president. She couldn’t seek another five-year term in office because she failed to obtain the support of 21 lawmakers to nominate her as a candidate.

“Tomorrow’s another day,” Karis told reporters immediately after election officials had announced the official results.

Under Estonia’s complex presidential election system, another two voting rounds are scheduled for Tuesday. If that fails to yield a result, the election will be transferred to a special 208-member electoral college consisting of lawmakers and representatives of municipalities who would vote on a new head of state in September.

Should even that body fail to elect the head of state, the vote would move back to Parliament and the process would start all over again. That’s what happened in 2016 when Kaljulaid was eventually elected by lawmakers after even the special electoral body couldn’t come up with a result.

The prime minister holds most the power in Estonia, a European Union and NATO member of 1.3 million people, while the role of the president is largely ceremonial — including representing the nation abroad and acting as a domestic opinion leader.

But the president’s powers include being the supreme commander of Estonia’s armed forces, formally appointing government members, signing laws to make them valid. The president also has the authority to veto laws.

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