Europe

Estonian MPs elect Alar Karis as President at second attempt

Estonia’s parliament has elected Alar Karis as the country”s new President after a second round of voting.

MPs had rejected Karis’ appointment just one day earlier, as he failed to gain the necessary two-thirds support.

But the Estonian National Museum director secured the votes of 72 members of the 101-seat Riigikogu on Tuesday after a second vote. Eight lawmakers voted blank and the rest abstained or were absent.

Karis was the only candidate in both rounds and will succeed Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia’s first female president.

Kaljulaid was unable to seek another five-year term in office because she failed to obtain a minimum of 21 lawmakers to propose her as a candidate.

“I thank all of those who voted for me and also those who didn’t, I promise to be a good partner for the Riigikogu,” Karis said in a short speech after the tally was announced.

The former state auditor and university leader had been favoured for the role by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ ruling coalition.

Karis will assume office on October 11, according to initial information from the government.

He will serve as Estonia’s fifth-ever President after the country regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A native of Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, he is a molecular geneticist and developmental biologist by training, before he became a university professor and then headed the University of Tartu between 2007-2012. He had also served as Auditor General of Estonia, between 2013 and 2018.

The role of the Estonian President is largely ceremonial, representing the nation abroad and acting as a domestic opinion leader, while the country’s prime minister holds the most power.

But the president does have the authority to veto laws, formally appoints government ministers, and also serves as supreme commander of Estonia’s armed forces.

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