Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Ilves Set to Win Estonian Presidency
A new opinion poll shows that Estonia's ex-foreign minister, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, is gaining ground on his rival, incumbent Arnold Rüütel, in the race for the country's presidency, AFP reported on Monday. The survey showed that 51 percent of Estonians would prefer to see Ilves as the next president, compared with only 31 percent who wanted Rüütel to win a second term. Rüütel is favoured mainly by Estonia's Russian-speaking minority, while Ilves is supported by a large section of the ethnic Estonian population.
On August 29, the Estonian parliament failed for a third time to elect a new president, and had to resign themselves to choosing their head of state in a wider electoral college vote. This will take place on September 23, when 101 members of parliament and 246 local government representatives will take part in the vote.
Today a group of 80 prominent Estonian public figures, writers and intellectuals released an open letter in support of Toomas Hendrik Ilves, appealing to the electorate to choose him as Estonia's president. The letter's principal is Mart Meri, son of Estonia's former president Lennart Meri, who passed away in March this year.
Among other things the text of the statement says: "We want the path that is chosen on this day (the day of the elections) to lead Estonia out of the isolation that threatens it and towards a wider outlook on life. Therefore we take upon ourselves the responsibility of being the agents of Toomas Hendrik llves and we guarantee that our presidential candidate will make a good head of state."
The signatories include the writers Jaan Kross, Viivi Luik and Jaan Kaplinski, the composer Arvo Pärt, the conductor Neeme Järvi, the singer Tõnis Mägi, the actors Ita Ever, Aarne Üksküla and Kaljo Kiisk, the artists Enn Põldroos and Jüri Arrak,and the scientists Erast Parmasto and Mart Saarma.
While the authors of the letter recognize Arnold Rüütel's contribution in bringing Estonia into the European Union, they accuse him of acting in the interests of only two of the country's political parties - the Centrist Party and the People's Union. In the view of the authors and signatories, Ilves will break this narrow and inward-looking focus and will be able to speak directly to the Estonian people as a whole about the sensitive issues that face the country, as well as being a worthy representative of Estonia abroad, in the manner that Lennart Meri developed during his lifetime.