I\’m Too Sexy for My Master\’s Thesis

Estonia’s new president

Posted in history by Rae on 25 September 2006

Have I mentioned that I live in Tallinn, Estonia now? I’ve been here for three weeks. And I seem to have arrived at a very good time in Estonia’s history.

Estonia’s presidential election took place this past Saturday. I watched it on tv, though it’s difficult to express the thrill of watching someone count paper ballots. But, considering I’m trying to learn Estonian numbers, it was time well spent.

The election takes place every 5 years. Since Estonia regained independence in 1991, there have been two presidents: Lennart Meri (who died this past March) and Arnold Rüütel. Rüütel, a “reformed Communist”, was running for re-election. His main challenger was Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Ilves was an interesting candidate. First, he was born to Estonian parents in Sweden. Second, he was raised in New Jersey and has degrees from Columbia and UPenn. Third, he gave up his US citizenship and moved to Estonia. Fourth, he wears a bow tie. He has lots of American mannerisms (he smiles, for example) and speaks English without an accent. From what I can tell, native Estonians have accepted him. And, of equal importance, the Estonian parliament has accepted him. He was elected as Estonia’s next president and will take office on October 9th.

Many Estonians have expressed discontent over the electoral system. The Estonian people vote the 101 members of Parliament into office, and then the Parliament is responsible for electing the President of Estonia. In the event that the vote does not result in a two-thirds majority for one candidate, then there are two more votes held (starting from scratch). If there is still no candidate with two-thirds of the votes, there is a later vote held by the electoral body (comprised of the 101 members of parliament and representatives of the local government councils), totalling 374 members. This electoral body vote is the one I watched.

As City Paper highlighted in this article on the election, Estonia sets an important, international example in the realms of “reform and modernization.” It seems that Ilves, a Social Democrat, will help continue that trend.


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