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Kersti Kaljulaid becomes the first female president of Estonia

The former European Auditor becomes a role model for gender equality

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© Rene Riisalu

A former state official from Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, was elected the first female president of Estonia in the Riigikogu (parliament), resolving a political stalemate that had seen six previous candidates unable to garner the required support. Kaljulaid was a non-partisan candidate endorsed by all six parties represented in the Estonian parliament. Being the sole remaining candidate, 81 MPs out of 101 cast their votes in her support. The 46-year old is the fifth president of Estonia since the position was inaugurated in 1938.

Former European auditor Kersti Kaljulaid becomes the first female President of Estonia

Born in Tartu, the second largest town in Estonia, in 1969, Kaljulaid graduated from high school in Tallinn, where she was a member of the students’ scientific association, specialising in ornithology. She got her degree from the University of Tartu in biology and later supplemented her education by obtaining MBA in business management at the same university.

  © Arvo Wichmann

Kaljulaid worked as a sales manager at the state-owned telecom company, Eesti Telefon, before moving into investment banking, and ended up as an economic adviser to Mart Laar’s administration in 1999. In 2002 she was appointed the director of the state-owned Iru Power Plant, before moving to Luxembourg in 2004 as Estonia’s representative in the European Court of Auditors. She held that post for more than a decade.

Politically, Kaljulaid has defined herself as a liberal conservative – she has spoken in favour of conservative economic policies, but at the same time has liberal ethical agenda on many social matters, such as LGBT rights and immigration. Kaljulaid has promised to ‘talk to people’ across Estonia. ‘I want to listen to the people who live in different corners [of Estonia], and are disappointed in the political parties and political and public affairs in general,’ says Kaljulaid.

Kaljulaid has said that the role of the Estonian president was to ‘be present wherever things are getting complicated.’ ‘The president will not be able to provide a solution to every issue in Estonia, but to be able to recognise, understand and communicate the problem is already a huge step toward a solution. This can be done and the president needs to do this, responsibly and impartially,’ she says.

Kersti Kaljulaid is married and has four children, two from her first marriage, and two from her second. She is also a grandmother.

Source: Life in Estonia

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