|5th President of Estonia|
10 October 2016
|Toomas Hendrik Ilves|
|Born||30 December 1969|
|Pro Patria Union (2001-2004)|
|Relatives||Raimond Kaljulaid (half-brother)|
|Alma mater||University of Tartu|
Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonian pronunciation: ['kers.ti 'k?l.ju'l?i?d]; born 30 December 1969) is an Estonian politician who is the fifth and current president of Estonia, in office since 10 October 2016. She is the first female head of state of Estonia since the country declared independence in 1918, as well as the youngest president, age 46 at the time of her election.
Kaljulaid is a former state official, serving as Estonia's representative in the European Court of Auditors from 2004 until 2016. After several unsuccessful rounds of Estonian presidential elections in 2016, Kaljulaid was nominated on 30 September 2016 by the majority of parliamentary parties as a joint candidate for president, as the only official candidate for that round. Kaljulaid was voted president on 3 October 2016, with 81 votes and 17 abstentions.
In 1987, Kaljulaid graduated from Tallinn Secondary School no. 44. During her studies there, she was a member of the Students' Scientific Association, specializing in ornithology. In 1992, she graduated from University of Tartu cum laude as a biologist. She is a member of Estonian female student corporation, Filiae Patriae. In 2001, she graduated from the University of Tartu with an MBA in business management. Her thesis was titled as "Riigi poolt asutatud sihtasutuste juhtimissüsteemi täiustamine" or "The improvement of the management system of state-founded foundations" in English.
From 1996 to 1997 Kaljulaid was a sales manager in state-owned telecom Eesti Telefon and from 1997 to 1998 a project manager in Hoiupanga Investeeringute AS. From 1998 to 1999 she was employed in Hansabank's investment banking division Hansabank Markets. From 1999 to 2002, Kaljulaid worked as the economic advisor of Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar. From 2002 to 2004, she was the director of Iru Power Plant, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia. She was the first woman to lead a power plant in Estonia.
In 2004, when Estonia joined the European Union, Kaljulaid was appointed the country's representative at the European Court of Auditors. Since 2011, Kaljulaid has been the chairperson of the board of the University of Tartu.
Kaljulaid has defined herself as a liberal conservative. She has spoken in support of strong civil society with less state interference, whilst placing high importance on helping those in need. She holds liberal views on social issues such as LGBT rights and immigration. She has often published opinion pieces in Estonian media, considering the position of Estonia in the European Union and on social and economical matters. Additionally, she has been a regular participant in political analysis programmes of Radio Kuku, e.g. "Keskpäevatund".
As Kaljulaid's term as a member of the European Court of Auditors was due to end on 7 May 2016, she was confirmed as the next head of PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies in November 2015. Although the Estonian government should have proposed her replacement in the court by 7 February 2016, it still had not managed to do so by the end of her term, so she remained in the position.
On 19 September 2016, the freshly founded Development Monitoring Advisory Board at the chancellery of Estonian Parliament voted Kaljulaid to be its chair.
After several failed rounds in the Estonian presidential elections in August through September 2016, a so-called "council of elders" of the Riigikogu, which included the representatives of all parliamentary parties, the speaker and vice-speakers, asked for Kaljulaid's consent and then proposed her as the only potential presidential candidate to be put before the members of the Riigikogu on 3 October 2016. Her candidacy was officially registered on 30 September. Riigikogu Speaker Eiki Nestor said that Kaljulaid undoubtedly had the required 68 votes from the 101-member Riigikogu, but the exact number remained to be seen. Ultimately her candidacy was supported by 90 Riigikogu MPs. She won the elections by 81 votes with 17 abstainers and no votes against her, while the only parliamentary party that had publicly declared not to support her was EKRE which had only 7 votes.
The main objection raised repeatedly during her candidacy by media as well as politicians and street polls was her being relatively unknown, compared to the candidates that had participated in the campaign. She confronted the objection in her public letter and during several interviews by promising to become visible across the country, visiting different areas and talking to the people directly. In mid-October 2016, the first conducted survey showed Kaljulaid's approval rating at 73%.
In 2020, the Estonian government nominated Kaljulaid as its candidate to succeed Angel Gurría in the position of Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for a five-year term. In January 2021, Kaljulaid announced that she had withdrawn her candidacy, citing consultations that led her to believe that accepting the position at the end of her first term as president amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Estonia would "not be the best solution." She had just advanced to the second round of the interview process.
On 21 January 2021, the opposition Social Democratic Party announced that they would support Kaljulaid should she run for a second term in the 2021 Estonian presidential election. If she is proposed by the incumbent government as their presidential candidate in the election, this would give her enough votes to be elected by the Riigikogu. The government has not yet indicated if they will support Kaljulaid for a second term. By June 2021, it was stated that the government had "cooled" on the prospective of Kaljulaid serving a second term as president, due to her divisiveness in Estonian society. Nevertheless, Kaljulaid later confirmed that she would stand as a candidate for a second term in the election.
In 2017, Kaljulaid became the first Estonian to be featured in the Forbes magazine's list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women, placed at 78th, and came twenty second among the most influential female political leaders.
Kaljulaid has a daughter and a son from her first marriage. She is also a grandmother of three. Kaljulaid's second husband is Georgi-Rene Maksimovski; they have two sons. Kaljulaid's half-brother, Estonian Social Democratic Party politician Raimond Kaljulaid, served as the Elder of Põhja-Tallinn district from 2016 to 2019, and was later elected to the Riigikogu in 2019.