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Cablegate: Estonian Presidential Elections Begin With

VZCZCXYZ0023
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTL #0798 2431436
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311436Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8975

UNCLAS TALLINN 000798

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS BEGIN WITH
BOYCOTT

Ref: Tallinn 00756

1. (U) As expected, in the first round of voting on
August 28-29 in Estonia's presidential elections,
Center Party and People's Union MPs did not cast a
single ballot, forcing a second round in the Electoral
College (composed of MPs and local government
representatives). In successive rounds of voting in
the Parliament, consensus candidates Ene Ergma, Deputy
Speaker of Parliament and Pro Patria MP, received 65
votes (three short of the number needed to win) and
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, European MP and Social Democrat
received 64.

2. (SBU) Leaders from the other four parties
immediately condemned the Center Party and People's
Union's boycott as making a mockery of Estonia's
constitution and democratic processes. Kristen
Michal, Reform Party Secretary General, informed us
that he believes at least five to eight Center Party
MPs would have voted for Ergma if Center Party Chair
Edgar Savisaar hadn't forced a party abstention.
"Center's disciplined boycott," commented Michal,
"reveals a real fear and paranoia among the Center
leadership that their MPs lacked enough party loyalty
and discipline to vote against Ergma in a secret
ballot."

3. Local Councils will elect representatives for the
next round of voting in the electoral college by
September 16. Four parties (Reform, Res Public,
Social Democrats and Pro Patria) have stated they will
continue to jointly back Ilves, while Center and
People's Union will support incumbent Arnold Ruutel.
It is also possible that additional candidates may be
nominated. Ergma has not ruled out the possibility
that she may run in the second round.

4. (SBU) Center Party and People's Union are
aggressively seeking support among local government
officials. Randel Lants, the Social Democrats
Secretary General, acidly described their behavior as

SIPDIS
"buying and bribing" votes by "pandering to pensioners
and rural communities." While Center Party and
People's Union have repeatedly claimed that they
already have enough votes to re-elect Ruutel, Lants
said that there are enough undecided votes in play to
make for a close election.


GOLDSTEIN

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