31/05/2007 - Results
Valdis Zatlers was elected President of the Republic of Latvia on 31st May by the members of the Saeima, the only Chamber in Parliament. The candidate who was supported by the four parties of the government coalition (People's Party (TP) led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, Latvia's First-Latvia's Way (LPP-LC), the Farmers' Union and the Greens (ZZS) and Union for the Father Country and Freedom (TB/LNNK)) won 58 votes i.e. the absolute majority of the Saeima versus 39 votes for his adversary, former president of the Constitutional Court, Aivars Endzins, who was supported by the Harmony Centre (SC) and New Era (JL).
Valdis Zatlers is 52 years old, a graduate of the Medical School in Riga (1979) and director of the capital's Casualty and Orthopaedic Hospital since 1994. In 2003, he was the focus of an inquiry undertaken by the then Healthcare Minister, Aris Auders (JL) and the Office for the Fight against and Prevention of Corruption (KNAB) with regard to his activities within the hospital in Riga. Valdis Zatlers was suspended from his function as director during the inquiry which in the end revealed nothing illegal about his activities.
When asked about the veto placed by Vaira Vike-Freiberga, outgoing President, on two laws with regard to national security which had been approved by Parliament, Valdis Zatlers answered in the daily newspaper Diena on 25th May: "It is difficult for me to judge the situation since I know nothing about the subjects, neither about security nor oligarchs," (the Head of State explained that the two laws were, in her eyes, an open door to "political manipulation" and they increased the danger of "investigations that would be undertaken by oligarchs")".
Finally Valdis Zatlers admitted having received envelopes containing money from his patients during his career as a surgeon – he refused however to say whether he had declared these sums or not to the tax authorities explaining that he had never calculated the total amount of these "gifts". The surgeon says that he accepted the money so as not to "hurt his patients' feelings" when they gave him the envelopes but he denies having received bribes: "I have never done anything in exchange for a sum of money not even a small amount," he declared, maintaining that he alerted the authorities on several occasions about the need to put an end to the system. Transparency International, an international NGO dedicated to the fight against corruption declared its strong opposition to the election of Valdis Zatlers as President of the Republic – a post, although only an honorary one in Latvia, renders the holder a moral figure who represents his country abroad.
In a speech he delivered after his election Valdis Zatlers stressed that Latvia had won back its independence and that it had experienced its greatest successes when it had managed to merge its objectives and ideals together. In his opinion objectives are predominant and ideals stand in the background – a phenomenon which divides society. He ended his speech quoting the writer Rudolfs Blaumanis: "My people is my wealth, its honour is my honour." When he takes office the new President of the Republic will take the following oath: "I swear that all my work will be dedicated to the prosperity of the people of Latvia. I shall do my very best to develop the prosperity of the Republic of Latvia and its inhabitants. I shall respect and apply the Latvian Constitution and its State laws. I shall be fair to all and I shall fulfil my duties conscientiously."
It will be difficult for Valdis Zatlers to succeed in the wake of the present President. Indeed for the eight years she has spent as Head of State, Vaira Vike-Freiberga has succeeded in making the President of the Republic a prestigious position that has greatly contributed to Latvia's acknowledgement and influence in the international arena. Valdis Zatlers will officially take office on 7th July next the day when Vaira Vike-Freiberga's second term in office comes to an end.