Coalition lines up behind Levits for Latvian president

The parties in Latvia's ruling coalition declared their support April 15 for the candidacy of Egils Levits to become Latvia's next state president, making it increasingly likely he will be elected to the post later this year, reported LSM's Latvian language service.

The National Alliance, New Conservatives and Development/For! have all come out in support of Levits already, while on Monday New Unity has signaled its support will also be forthcoming and KPV LV dropped a tentative plan to nominate an alternative candidate, saying it would instead give its MPs a free vote in the electoral ballot.

Latvian presidents are elected by parliamentary vote, not by popular vote. This year, for the first time, that vote will be open and not secret, meaning that if Saeima deputies vote as instructed by their parties, Levits should be assured of victory.

Indeed, so far he is the only candidate named, and if no other credible candidate can be persuaded to run against him the process could start to resemble a coronation.

Levits was born 1955 in Rīga, but grew up in Germany and graduated in law and in political science from the University of Hamburg. He was adviser to the Latvian Parliament on questions of international law, constitutional law and legislative reform; Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to Germany and Switzerland (1992-93), Austria, Switzerland and Hungary (1994-95); Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Justice, acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (1993-94); Conciliator at the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration within the OSCE (from 1997); member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (from 2001); elected as judge at the European Court of Human Rights in 1995, re-elected in 1998 and 2001. He has been a judge at the Court of Justice since 11 May 2004.

He is a well-known legal expert who contributed to the declaration of renewed Latvian independence in 1990. He also drafted the controversial preamble to Latvia's Constitution, adopted in 2014, which says that Latvia's national identity includes "universal and Christian values," a bone of some contention for a secular constitution.

He was defeated in the last Saeima vote four years ago by the current president, Raimonds Vējonis. Vējonis has yet to reveal whether he will seek a second term, though it is widely rumored that he will not.

Later April 15 he confirmed he would be standing.

"'It is very important for me to have the support of the whole coalition, which represents a majority of voters. It is good that the coalition has been able to agree on one candidate. Of course, I would be honored to serve Latvia,'' Levits told LTV.

For more information on how Latvia elects its presidents, see this explanatory feature we produced recently.

The last working day of current President Raimonds Vējonis is July 7 and the election is to take place in June. Precisely who will be sitting in Rīga Castle on July 8 remains to be seen, but if you are thinking of being a candidate and would like to try it out for size, you can take a virtual tour.

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