A couple months ago when I was toying around with the idea of who could succeed Arnold Rüütel in office, I put up a photo of Ene Ergma. I didn't think that Ene was a shoe-in candidate, but I remembered photos of her welcoming Tarja Halonen to Tallinn, and I thought for some reason that she might be a candidate.
However, when Toomas Hendrik Ilves entered the race, I thought he'd surely be everyone's choice for the August 28 vote because he had the most popular support. Still, his tough statements toward Russia - which are really just honest assessments but too tough for some in Estonia to handle - probably made him too dangerous for Edgar Savisaar who is planning to become Estonia's next prime minister in 2007 (by the way, kudos to Ansip for keeping the coalition together this long).
When the parties in the roundtable had to pick two candidates to advance for the August 28 vote, Ilves was the pick of the Social Dems, Reform, Isamaa, and Res Publica. But Ergma was KESK's top choice. I have a feeling that KESK thought Ilves would (without a doubt) be the first candidate. But I think the four partners decided that Ergma had the best chance of getting elected in parliament.
Some people believe that Savisaar is gaming the system so that he will be president. But I think neither his party, nor ERL supports this. Without Savisaar, they are like sheep. Who would lead KESK in parliament without Savisaar? Kalle Laanet? Mailis Reps?
As I have written before, KESK can do as it pleases and still expect ERL's support in forming a colaition in 2007, should they win enough to form a government.
The remaining question for KESK will be if Ene Ergma is non-controversial enough to gain their support in the August 28th vote. Ergma is 62 years old. An astrophysicist, she was educated in Moscow and speaks fluent Russian. KESK obviously feels that having someone that can speak to the Russians in their language is important for keeping their need to feel comfortable with their "near abroad" satiated while at the same time keeping their tentacles out of Tallinn. She was their first pick afterall - there must be some support for her among KESK's ranks.
Or Savisaar could have gamed it this way. Maybe KESK will find Ergma's Res Publica affiliation enough to vote her down in parliament in late August.
I believe that, in their hearts, the Ergma-backing coalition desperately wants to avoid the electoral college embarassment of 2001. Also, Estonia so far has had a tradition of electing academics president. Even Rüütel was an educator in agricultural academies before becoming president. In this way, Ergma could enjoy broad support. Perhaps even in an electoral college.
And, for my support, she can also speak English. As I have written before, it's important to have a president that can communicate with Tony Blair in his language, as well with Aleksis II when he comes to town on a mission.