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Cablegate: Estonia: Presidential Elections - Tempest in A

VZCZCXRO7056
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHTL #0867 2651106
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221106Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9049
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS TALLINN 000867

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS - TEMPEST IN A
TEAPOT

Ref: A) Tallinn 00756 B) Tallinn 582

1. (SBU) Summary: The second round of voting in
Estonia's presidential elections will take place on
September 23rd, when members of the electoral college
meet in Tallinn. Although polls indicate popular
support favors Social Democrat Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the
contest in the electoral college between incumbent
Arnold Ruutel and Ilves is likely to be extremely close.
The outcome of this election will determine how much of
a role Estonia's president will play in foreign policy
for the next five years: minimal if Ruutel wins;
activist with Ilves. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Public interest in the election has been very
strong. 43,000 people called in on September 20 to
"vote" for president in a poll taken during a televised
debate among party leaders. The outcome of this poll,
which tracks with other recent surveys, indicated
approximately 70% of respondents favor Ilves over
Ruutel. Although representatives of local government
councils (who make up more than two thirds of the
electoral college) are more directly tied to their
constituencies than MPs, popular support will not
necessarily equate to victory in the electoral college.
Adding to the uncertainty, parties do not have the
ability to maintain the same level of discipline among
local officials as they did with MPs in the first round,
where Center and People's Union ordered their deputies
not to vote rather than face the possibility that some
might use their secret ballot to vote against the party
line.

3. (U) Not surprisingly, parties on both sides have
asserted they have enough votes to elect their
candidate. Media predictions, however, have ranged
widely. Of note, a telephone survey of local electors
conducted by Estonian Radio on September 19 concluded
that Ilves may be three votes short of winning, Ruutel
14. However, 16 members would not reveal the way they
intend to vote.

4. (SBU) There is a small chance that neither candidate
will obtain enough votes to win; a simply majority of
votes cast is required. There has been speculation in
the press that some electors will cast empty or spoiled
ballots. If enough electors do this and the votes that
are cast are relatively evenly split, both Ilves and
Ruutel could fall short. Failure to choose a president
this round would result in the elections moving back to
Parliament for a third round of voting.

5. (SBU) Comment: Two things about this election are
clear. If President Ruutel wins re-election, he will
continue the same relatively inactive approach he has
taken the last five years. Ilves, on the other hand,
would certainly seek to play a much more activist role
as President, particularly in foreign policy. (ref B).

WOS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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