Presidential candidate Andris Bērziņš (in shirt) consults with other members of the Saeima before balloting begins June 2. (Photo courtesy of Saeima Press Service)
Latvia’s new president will be lawmaker and former Unibanka head Andris Bērziņš, who defeated incumbent Valdis Zatlers in a Saeima vote June 2.
The 66-year-old Bērziņš, who was nominated by five members of the Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienību), won 53 votes on the second ballot. He will take office in July, becoming Latvia’s fourth president since the country regained independence in 1991.
Zatlers, who was elected by the Saeima in 2007, apparently ruined his chances of re-election after he announced May 28 that he was initiating dismissal of the parliament. A national referendum on the dissolving the 10th Saeima is scheduled July 23.
The incumbent president was nominated for re-election by the centrist Unity (Vienotība) coalition, which controls 33 seats in the 100-member Saeima. On the first ballot, Zatlers also was assured eight votes from the right-wing National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”).
On the first ballot, Bērziņš received 50 votes in favor and Zatlers got 43 in favor. On the second ballot, Bērziņš earned 53 votes and Zatlers got 41. Members of parliament voted in secret.
Bērziņš was born in 1944. He graduated from the State University of Latvia in 1988 with a degree in industrial planning. From 1993-2004, Bērziņš was president of Unibanka, which became the Swedish-controlled SEB.
Bērziņš has been criticized by some observers as similar to the oligarchs that Zatlers has targeted in his effort to dismiss the parliament. The new president’s income declaration includes more than EUR 2.1 million in an account in SEB.
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