President Lennart Meri on September 20 narrowly won reelection to a second five-year term in the second of two rounds of balloting by Estonia’s electoral college. In the runoff Meri received 196 votes, i.e., 8 votes over the minimum required for election. Meri’s main challenger and traditional political rival, Vice-Chairman of Parliament Arnold Ruutel, received 126 votes. Yesterday’s first ballot in the electoral college gave Meri 139 votes and his four challengers a total of 233 votes. The summoning of the electoral college, which consists of all 101 parliamentary deputies plus 273 members of district and town councils, had been necessitated by the parliament’s inconclusive vote two weeks ago, when Meri finished with 54 votes, short of the 68 required for election.
Despite the close calls in both forums, Meri had clearly outdistanced his competitors in public opinion surveys taken before the election. Addressing the electoral college after his victory, Meri pledged continuity in foreign and domestic policies and closer cooperation with the parliament. A perception of Meri as unwilling to consult with the deputies was a factor which complicated his reelection. (Radio Tallinn, BNS, September 20 and 21)
Born in 1929, Meri was deported with his family to Siberia during the early years of the Soviet occupation. Later on he achieved distinction as a scholar and author in the fields of history, philology, and Finno-Ugric studies. Meri became foreign minister of Estonia in 1990 and was first elected president in 1992, outvoting Ruutel.
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