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Saeima to elect the next President of Latvia

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn Wednesday, 3 June, Latvian Saeima will hold presidential elections. Deputies will be able to vote for one of four candidates – Martins Bondars from Latvian Regional Alliance, Sergei Dolgopolov from Harmony, Raimonds Vejonis from the Union of Greens and Farmers and Egils Levits from National Alliance – or no one.

The Saeima meeting will begin at 10:00. Debates are planned to be held prior to the vote.

After the debates there will be a closed vote. If none of the candidates gain at least 51 votes in the first vote, the parliament will vote again. If no one takes the lead then as well, elections will continue without the candidate with the least number of votes. If no one gains the lead in the last vote, new elections will be organized within the next ten to fifteen days.

Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee had previously said that all official candidates comply with requirements of the State President Election Law.

Initially, the ruling coalition had agreed to search for a candidate that would suit all parties. This, however, failed. The initiative was taken by the Union of Greens and Farmers, who decided to nominate Vejonis as the party’s official candidate. Unity had initially expressed support for Vejonis, but the National Alliance then decided to nominate Egils Levits. The party also asked other deputies to support this step.

The entire UGF faction promises to support Vejonis and NA – Levits. Unity plans to support the candidate that will continue the competition after initial drop-outs. UGF had previously said that they would not support Levits in elections. NA, on the other hand, is not as strict on this matter. However, leaders of the party are not in a hurry to support Vejonis. NA said if Levits drops out of elections, the party will decide what to do next together with him.

The opposition parties promise to support only to their own candidates. Harmony will support Dolgopolov. Should he drop out of elections, the party will oppose all other candidates. Latvian Regional Alliance has nominated Martins Bondars as the party’s official candidate. Because he is largely supported only by members of his own party, it is likely he will drop out first. Should he drop out from elections, LRA will no longer participate in votes. To Latvia from the Heart had previously said the party would not support any of the nominated candidates.

Politicians admit that it is hard to predict the outcome of presidential elections, considering the secret vote. It is believed Vejonis has the highest chance of being elected.

If elected, Egils Levits promises to focus on combating the existing deficit of democracy and justice and making Latvia more secure. He also stands in favour of making Latvia more socially responsible by addressing matters of social and economic inequality. Levits’ other priorities include ‘active and convincing’ representation of Latvia’s interests in Europe and the world and helping develop Latvia’s economy by using all opportunities provided by Europe.

Vejonis has the most experience working in the government: he worked as Latvia’s Environmental Minister for several years and has been the country’s Defence Minister since 2014. He was elected to the Saeima from UGF’s list multiple times in the past. He is also the Co-Chairman of Latvia’s Green Party. Vejonis has said his priorities in the post of President of Latvia would be national unity, national identity, patriotism and social justice.

Dolgopolov is an experienced Saeima deputy. Prior to entering the Saeima, Dolgopolov was a deputy in Riga City Council.

Dolgopolov graduated from Riga Polytechnic Institute (now known as Riga Technical University) in 1963. In 1969, he completed his post-graduate studies there as well.

At the very beginning of his career, Dolgopolov worked in Alfa semiconductor factory in Riga.

During the Awakening period, 1988, he became the head of Latvian Communist Party’s Central Committee for government and NGO sector. He remained in this post until 1990, when he became the head of Riga City Council’s Personnel Department.

Dolgopolov became involved in politics in 1994, when he became a candidate from the National Harmony Party in Riga City Council elections. He also participated in elections of the 6th and 7th Saeima.

In 2001, Dolgopolov participated in Riga City Council elections from the For Human Rights in a United Latvia list. He was elected and even became the deputy of then the Chairperson of Riga City Council Gundars Bojars.

Bondars was born in 1971. In1996 he graduated from Lakeland College in Wisconsin, USA, and gained a Bachelor’s degree in international business. In 2011, he graduated from          Harvard University with Master’s degree in public administration.

In 1998, Bondars was the Chairman of the board of Interbaltija Invest. In November of the same year, Bondars became the head of office of then the Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans. Eight months later he was appointed as the head of office of then the President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

At the end of 2000, Bondars entered the ranks of the National Alliance and expressed his preparedness to become a candidate in municipal elections. In 2003, he was mentioned in the press as a possible candidate for the post of the Director of Constitution Protection Bureau. He was elected to the Saeima from Latvian Regional Alliance in 2014. He is also a member of the Latvian basketball Union Council.

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