More would-be Presidents join the fray

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Two more wannabe presidents officially announced their candidacies Wednesday from the right-wing National Alliance party and the Harmony party that draws most of its support from the Russian minority.

In a widely expected move, European Court of Justice judge Egils Levits was confirmed as the NA candidate for the job while Harmony opted for veteran parliamentarian Sergejs Dolgopolovs, who has a reputation as one of the country's hardest-working MPs.

Levits is understood to have strong support and is regarded as an intelligent person with international experience. However, the fact he has lived out of Latvia for many years makes him unpopular in some quarters, as does his role in drafting controversial amendments to the Latvian constitution.

Despite being widely respected in parliament, Dolgopolovs has little to no chance of securing the presidential mandate.

However, confusion reigned in the centre-right Unity party. After signalling on Monday that Unity would back Raimonds Vejonis, the candidate of the Greens and Farmers Alliance (ZZS), Unity party chairwoman Solvita Aboltina performed a U-turn and announced her parties would in fact be allowed to choose between Vejonis and Levits.

"Unity [lawmakers] will likely be able to vote for one candidate or the other, and then, if there is a second round, the whole faction will vote for the one who gained more votes," explained Unity party chair Solvita Aboltina.

That, at least is the theory. Whether lawmakers do what they are told given the fact that the vote to select the new president is a secret ballot remains to be seen. Previous elections have been notable for the claims of MPs to have voted one way or another refusing to tally with the actual results, and given the secret nature of the whole process, they can vote however they want with no fear of detection.

The precise date of the vote has yet to be fixed but will take place in late May or early June.


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