Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dark horse presidential candidate has emerged!

Earlier today, the four parties of the Latvian coalition government agreed on the doctor Valdis Zatlers as their presidential candidate. Since the four-party coalition has 58 of 100 seats in the parliament, Zatlers will become the president, unless one of parties changes their mind between now and May 31 (the election day).

My reaction, six hours ago... They nominated whom? I've heard that name but when and in that context? Let's look him up on the google. 8 pages of hits, mostly medical webpages, one newspaper interview. Hmmm, not much information...

The basic facts. Born in 1955, received a medical degree in 1979, has worked as a doctor since then. Has been the director of Riga Hospital of Traumotology and Orthopaedics since 1994. Participiated in founding Latvian Popular Front, the pro-independence coalition, in 1988, but did not stay in politics. Founded several professional organizations of Latvian doctors around the same time.

After that, the only time when he came into news, was a scandal in early 2003. A doctor from his hospital, Aris Auders, had gone into politics with New Era Party and became the Minister of Healthcare. One of Auders' first decisions as the minister was starting a corruption investigation against his former boss Zatlers and suspending Zatlers for the duration of the investigation. That was the time when New Era Party had just entered the government after campaigning on anti-corruption theme and was starting investigations against many officials.

In this case, Zatlers was cleared of all charges one month later. And the investigation against him was overshadowed by a scandal involving Auders himself. Auders became the symbol of medical corruption in Latvia and the investigation against Zatlers was forgotten by the general public.

Will he be a good president? It's very hard to say. Zatlers is probably very respected as a doctor but has almost no political experience. One negative is that he might suffer from "foot-in-mouth" disease. Diena newspaper has dug up some past quotes from Zatlers' interviews and they are quite colourful. Like this one:
People who published the anti-Mohammad cartoons had a complete freedom do to that. But they should have realized that those who pray to Mohammad, have a complete freedom to kill them for that.
And it's not the only one. Zatlers will have to become more careful if he's elected.

My other posts on Latvian presidential election:

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