Oligarchs May Celebrate, Latvians Got ExCommunist Their President
On Thursday night, June 2, in Old Town of Riga, Latvia, several dozens of youth were demanding the resignation of newly elected president, ex-banker Andris Berzins (66). He was set to become the fourth Latvian president since the Baltic nation's independence in 1991. Following the posts, published in social neworks, a number of people at the parliament building continued protests against Berzins, then decided to go to the Riga Castle, the presidential office, to demonstrate support for the current president Valdis Zatlers (56).
Less than a week earlier, president Zatlers moved to dissolve the parliament to end the clout of "oligarchs". It was the centre-right Unity bloc which backed Zatlers, however, most of the MP's appeared to have taken his decision amiss. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis announced that "the majority in parliament had not respected the public demand for a policy that was free of the oligarchs' influence and had punished Valdis Zatlers for his courage."
The Economist's Edward Lucas who closely follows the developments in the Baltic states, marked in his recent European Voice article that the good guys were losing ground in Latvian struggle between state institutions and big money. Andris Berzins, a multi-millionaire with numerous land holdings around the country, is seen by local observers as a president comfy for the bunch of tycoons, armed with political parties and media outlets. In response to journalists' questions whether his reputation is impeccable, Berzins stated that one can not come down only on 'the man from Arctic' who would not have done anything in Latvia previously. However, he said nothing on the alleged skeletons in the closet from the times when he served as president of Unibanka of Latvia, which became the Swedish-controlled SEB (1993-2004). The new president’s income declaration includes more than 2.1 million euro rcticrtin an account in SEB. Berzins graduated from a university's radio engineering department, worked at an electronic plant, then became a vice-minister on consumer services under the Soviets.
The former president of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, may be right saying that by election of the new president the Latvians have retreated a few steps back from the political independence from the oligarchs. Though, Berzins announced that as a member of parliament, he had not felt any influence of oligarchs at all.