Surprise candidate elected as Estonia’s first female president


Estonia has voted for its first female president, ending a month-long political stalemate. The choice of Kersti Kaljulaid, a member of the European Court of Auditors, was a surprise as she is not a household name.

Kersti Kaljulaid, 46, was confirmed in a 81-0 vote in Estonia’s 101-seat parliament on Monday after emerging last week as a surprise candidate following unsuccessful bids by four other contenders.

Twenty parliamentarians abstained or were absent Monday.

She will be the country’s fifth president since 1991, when the three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – became independent during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On Monday, she promised to be president for all Estonians and regularly discuss issues with the ethnic Russian minority in the nation of 1.3 million people.

She will succeed Toomas Hendrik Ilves, an outspoken critic of Russia who steps down next week after two five-year terms as president. In recent months, NATO has boosted its presence in the Baltic nations.

Stalemate broken

Kaljulaid, who has a business degree and is a trained biologist specializing in genetics, describes herself as economically conservative but liberal on social issues.

Since the late 1990s, she has worked as an investment banker, run a power station, worked as a government economic policy adviser and spent the past 12 years as an EU auditor.

The choice of Kaljulaid became possible after parliament’s six parties agreed to propose a political outsider as a single candidate.

Two previous rounds of voting in August and September delivered four other contenders, including former Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand and former premier and European Commissioner Siim Kallas.

The role of president is a largely ceremonial post, though the president can veto draft law during a final legislative phase.

ipj/cmk (AFP, dpa, AP)


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