Although little known in political circles, a doctor who is chairman of the board of the Hospital of Traumotology and Orthopaedics in Rīga may become the next president of Latvia, the country’s government coalition parties announced May 23, just a week before a vote in parliament is planned.
Valdis Zatlers, 52, is not a member of any party. He is being offered as a compromise candidate by Tautas partija (People’s Party), Tēvzemei un brīvībai / LNNK (For Fatherland and Freedom / LNNK), Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers), and Latvijas Pirmā Partija and Latvijas Ceļš (First Party of Latvia and Latvia’s Way, or LPP/LC).
Meanwhile, former foreign minister Sandra Kalniete, a member of the opposition party Jaunais laiks (New Era), announced late May 24 that she is withdrawing as a presidential candidate. Instead, she told viewers of the television program “Kas notiek Latvijā,” the Saeima should elect a third candidate, Aivars Endziņš, former chairman of the Constitutional Court.
Endziņš was nominated May 24 by Saskaņas centrs (Harmony Centre).
It is expected that Saeima, Latvia’s parliament, will vote on the new president on May 31. To be elected, a candidate must receive at least 51 votes in the 100-seat parliament. It is likely Zatlers would get enough votes.
The new president would replace Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, whose second term in office ends July 8.
According to Latvian media reports, the compromise on Zatlers came after the coalition parties could not agree on other candidates. Tautas partija, for example, had nominated Māris Riekstiņš, the former Latvian ambassador to the United States who was recalled to Rīga to serve as an advisor to Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis. LPP/LC had nominated former Minister of Culture Karīna Pētersone.
Zatlers has worked at the hospital since 1994, according the hospital’s Web site. He graduated in 1979 from the Rīga Medical Institute. In 1990-1991, he spent time in the United States working with the Keggi Orthopaedic Foundation in Waterbury, Conn.
Endziņš, born in 1940, studied law at the University of Latvia and in Moscow. He also has studied in the United States. He joined the Constitutional Court in 1996. In 2006, he joined the faculty of the Turība School of Business Administration as head of the public law department.
While not specifically endorsing a candidate, Vīķe-Freiberga said in a May 23 that a nonpartisan candidate would have an easier time being elected and would be received better by the people.
Valdis Zatlers, a doctor at the Hospital of Traumotology and Orthopaedics in Rīga, may become Latvia’s next president.
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