President Bērziņš will not seek second term

Latvian President Andris Bērziņš confirmed Friday that he will not seek a second term in the job, opening the way for a scramble to capture Riga Castle by July 8 when his term expires.

Bērziņš, 70, said via a video clip on his official webpage: “I do hereby notify that I shall not be one of the candidates for the post of the President of Latvia for the next term,” and said he was satisfied he had performed his duties “to the best of my knowledge and understanding.”

He drew particular attention to his claimed success in promoting foreign trade, saying: "Many official visits abroad, where I went along with widely represented business delegations, have provided positive results. The figures confirm that the total Latvian exports have increased by 20% with stable and steady upward tendency, reaching more than 10 billion euros in 2014. The results show a large number of positive trends, but it is only the very beginning of the way that must be continued purposefully."

The full text of Bērziņš' statement in English can be read here.

After beating incumbent Valdis Zatlers in 2011, it was assumed in some quarters that the wealthy Bērziņš would be a friend of Latvia's influential cadre of oligarchs. However, while not taking them on in the manner of his predecessor, Bērziņš has had a knack of defying all expectations, surprising people on some issues and disappointing them on others.

Probably the defining moment of his single-term Presidency came in 2013 when he described the collapse of a supermarket which killed 54 people as "mass murder" and had a meeting with Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis that resulted in the latter's surprise resigation.

Bērziņš had a certain following among ordinary people who appreciated his down-to-earth though occasionally confused manner of speaking.

He was less popular in media circles after threatening a cameraman during a press opportunity.

Now the political horse trading will begin to see who can secure the simple majority required in a vote of the 100-seat parliament or Saeima likely to take place in early June.

Former banker and basketball star Martins Bondars - who was part of the Presidential team of the highly-esteemed President Vair Vike-Freiberga - has confirmed his desire to race for the Presidency so far, but coming from the small Regional Alliance party he is not thought to have much chance of securing the position.

The undeclared front runners being discussed as possible candidates are MEP Sandra Kalniete from the same Unity politcal party as Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, European Court of Human Rights judge Egils Levits and Marcis Auzins, the current rector of the University of Latvia.

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