Riga mayor marks five years in power

Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs marked five years in charge of the Latvian capital Monday and used the opportunity to claim he had transformed it into a “social democratic” city.

“For the first time ever, the Latvian capital has experienced social democratic policies for five consecutive years,” Ušakovs said in a press statement.

“Since our first day at work, municipal priorities were defined as social support for residents, schools and kindergartens, repairs and improvement of urban planning, housing, security and order plus development of the city's economy and tourism. The priorities have not changed and have yielded results,” the Harmony Centre party leader said.

Elected on July 1, 2009, Ušakovs' tenure of one of the most powerful positions in the country has certainly not been short of incident. In 2011 he almost died after collapsing while participating in the Riga Marathon but he recovered and won re-election by a comfortable margin in 2013, attracting more than 50 percent of the vote.

While winning credit for overseeing several important developments such as the opening of cycle lanes, school renovation works, the reconstruction of the Spikeri district of warehouses and the creation of a new pedestrian walkway along the right bank of the Daugava River, the ethnic Russian Ušakovs has also come under criticism for his party's ties to Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and for his refusal to follow the lead of then-Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis who resigned in the wake of the Zolitude store collapse disaster which claimed dozens of lives.

A series of corruption scandals in various Riga municipal departments has also raised questions about his powers of oversight, though none of the scandals has been linked to him directly.

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