The big question to current European Parliamentarian and former foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves:
Kas kinnitate kandideerimist Eesti presidendiks?
Jah. Olen oma nõusoleku kandideerimiseks andnud ka SDE-le, aga nemad kinnitavad oma kandidaadid 2. aprillil.
Basically - 'are you going to run for president?' answer - yes.
As a candidate, Ilves has some things going for him. Probably the most important to Estonians is his bow-tie. Estonians I have spoken with are hungry for an engaging, stylish leader after five years of Rüütel. It's not that Arnold lacks charisma, it's just that - along with wild teenage parties at Kadriorg and rumors of Alzheimer's - some have speculated that he is asleep at the wheel. But Ilves is fairly young (52) and has had, for some time, a vision of where he wants to take Estonia (he wants to continue to make it a normal, boring Nordic country).
Another asset is his biography - born to Estonian refugees in Stockholm, Ilves actually grew up in the US, where people that know him refer to him not as "Toomas" but "Tom." Though it does not please me to say this, there's a reason that Vaira Vike Freiberga is President Bush's favorite Baltic president (I heard this from someone who knows - off the record) as he demonstrated by choosing to visit Latvia before traveling to Russia last May to take in some goose stepping. That's because Vaira also grew up in the West (Canada) and can, most importantly, speak perfect English.
Being able to speak a key language of NATO and the European Union fluently is paramount to preserving good relations with these organizations that safeguard the future of the Estonian Republic. Plus Ilves has a lot of personal connections with leaders in Europe and abroad. He sits on the EU's foreign affairs committee. He's a known quantity in Europe. And he was ambassador to the US from 1993 - 1996.
Third, a major plus for Ilves is that he has no Communist past. There are no "his father was a collaborator" rumours (like with Meri) and there will be no birthday editions printed in ironic red of Estonian newspapers for Toomas (like they did with Rüütel in 2003 for his 75th). He has a clean slate. And that's healthy for the country.
Finally, he's a Mülk - from Viljandimaa. He even owns a farm in Mülgimaa. And as my wife will tell you, Mülks are allegedly the most ambitious of Estonians.