Even though I have lived here in Estonia for two and a half years, and my wife and two daughters are all Estonian citizens, those fascisti up on Toompea have not yet bestowed upon me the right to vote in European parliamentary elections.
Nevertheless, I have eagerly followed the elections of Estonia’s six delegates this year and was surprised by independent candidate Indrek Tarand’s awesome victory.
It is said that Tarand — with whom, like every other human in Estonia, I have exchanged e-mails — achieved victory with only 40,000 measly Estonian kroons.
This is only partly true. He also had a string of quasi endorsements from the Estonian media and rode high on a wave of popularity nurtured by his role as a TV host. Finally, one can never forget that Tarand was disciplined by the University of Tartu for bringing candles to the grave of War of Independence hero Julius Kuperjanov back in the Soviet era.
In every county and city, save Tallinn, Ida Virumaa, and Võrumaa, Tarand won. He beat the Center Party’s lead candidate, Edgar Savisaar, also known as his wife, Vilja Savisaar. He beat Tunne Kellam, the free-coffee-distributing wise conservative, and Ivari Padar, the personal-hygiene-ignoring passionate social democrat. Why, he even beat Kristina Ojuland, the dancing liberal.
The Estonian punditry is now lining up to argue that his performance is an indictment of current lackluster party politics, and maybe they are right. For years now, Estonians have been voting against the other candidates. It’s like my brother-in-law explained one day: “I have to vote for Isamaa Res Publica Liit in Tartumaa to cancel out the votes for Keskerakond in Ida Virumaa.”
It’s a political landscape where everyone seems arrogant and a little crooked. You’ve got to hedge your bets. Tarand, though, has also been accused of arrogance. And I am not sure if, independent candidates aside, it could be any other way. I mean, it is politics we’re talking about here.
And so Estonia will send a TV show host to Brussels, along with someone named Savisaar, a farmer from Võrumaa, a dancing liberal, a coffee-distributing conservative, and others. The people have made their choice.