Latvia: Latvia elects new president
June 2, 2011
On 2 June, President Valdis Zatlers lost his bid for a second term against former banker Andris Berzins. Zatlers had called a referendum on the dissolution of the Saeima (Parliament) after lawmakers refused to lift the immunity of a member facing a criminal probe, thus effectively blocking an investigation by the country's anti-corruption unit. Zatlers' decision was generally perceived as an attack on corruption and the influence of powerful businessman-politicians, dubbed oligarchs. Berzins obtained 53 of 100 votes, while incumbent President Zatlers, whose term expires on 7 July, received 41 votes. According to local analysts, the election result is likely to cause political turbulence, as Zatlers' supporters assessed the outcome as a backward step on the road to achieving political independence from Latvia's oligarchs. On the other hand, analysts do not expect that political uncertainty will derail the ongoing economic recovery or herald a significant change in economic policy. Berzins will become the fourth elected president since the country regained its independence in 1991.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist