Latvia to vote for new president

Latvian parliament to choose new president on Wednesday

Photo by: Saeima (
Photo by: Saeima (

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Four candidates are set to compete to win a four-year term as president in the Latvian parliament Saeima on Wednesday.

Current Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis and European Court of Justice judge Egils Levits are considered to be the frontrunners in the candidacy race.

The other two candidates vying to become president are Martin Bondars, a banker, and a pro-Russian National Harmony party member Sergejs Dolgopolovs.

Dolgopolovs said that if he becomes president he will try to “reconcile” relations between Latvia and Russia.

Former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that “there's great concern about the events in Ukraine and the attitude Russia is taking to international law.”

“I think whichever president gets elected needs to take an interest in our security," he added.

To become the president of Latvia, the candidates need 51 out of 100 votes from the members of parliament.

Due to corruption allegations, one member of the parliament has been suspended and Latvian parliament seats have thus been reduced to 99.

The voting process will be repeated within 10 days if one of the candidates fails to get 51 votes in the first round.

The Latvian president also maintains the role of commander in chief of the military and has right to nominate the prime minister as well as propose or return legislations.

The Baltic NATO and eurozone member country has placed great importance on national security after the Russian annexation of Crimea last year.

Tensions with Russia

Countries in the Baltics region have particularly been on alert since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine after Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fled a pro-EU uprising last year.

Russia is also accused of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine who have been fighting for the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic since Yanukovych’s demise, leading to heightened tensions between Russia and Western allies in eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics.

Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics previously said that a war of words between Russia and the West could degenerate into something worse, with "devastating" consequences.

Both Russia and NATO have increased their military exercises in the Baltic region since the Ukraine crisis put the two military giants at odds with one another.

The Baltic states have also been increasing their defense budget this year in comparison to last year.

According to a report released last month by Swedish think-tank SIPRI, Lithuania has upped its weapons budget by 50 percent, while Latvia increased its budget by 15 percent.

In March, the US sent 750 military tanks, helicopters, and other heavy equipment, along with nearly 3,000 soldiers to the region to participate in a three-month training exercises in a show of strength against Russia.

The sending of heavy military equipment by the US to Latvia was condemned by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said the move was not helping the restoration of trust between Russia and NATO.

NATO is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia which prevents it from stationing permanent troops in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia.

TRTWorld and agencies