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article imageEstonian presidential vote delayed until late September

By AFP     Aug 30, 2016 in Politics

Estonia's divided parliament failed on Tuesday to elect a successor to two-term liberal President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, delaying the choice until September 24.

The head of state plays a largely ceremonial role in the Baltic NATO country of 1.3 million people and is elected by parliament or electoral college rather than direct public vote.

They will now face the vote of the 347-strong electoral college on September 24, made up of parliamentarians as well as local representatives where they will need just a simple majority to win.

"Everything is still open and everything is still up for grabs," Andres Kasekamp, a professor of political science at Tartu University told AFP Tuesday.

Former prime minister and EU commissioner Siim Kallas and the opposition Centre Party candidate Mailis Reps both failed to secure the required two-thirds majority in the 101-seat parliament following two rounds of voting.

Kallas, a liberal and co-founder of the governing Reform party scored 42 votes while the left-leaning Reps took 26.

It is unclear whether Reform Prime Minister Taavi Roivas keep his promise to nominate popular Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand to run in the electoral college round.

Presidents can remain in office for up to two consecutive five year terms.

Although his standing as a Reform Party founding father gives him strong backing among the group's old guard, Kallas is still haunted by a murky party funding scandal dating back to the late 1990s.

The 67-year-old however still enjoys a strong reputation in Estonia as an economic expert and Brussels insider. He served as EU commissioner for transport from 2010-14.

Kaljurand, 53, enjoys strong popular support as an outspoken advocate of women's rights and a career diplomat.

Ilves, known for his sharp tongue and fondness for bow-ties, gave the post a strong international dimension due to his passion for foreign affairs.

As Estonia prepares to take over the EU's rotating six-month presidency next July, analysts expect the future president to develop a higher international profile.

"Kallas and Kaljurand have international experience and either could represent Estonia well in its future role as EU president," said Kasekamp.

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