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Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, voted on Thursday to make Andris Berzins the country’s new president. Parliament had to choose from two candidates – the incumbent president Valdis Zatlers, and lawmaker Andris Berzins.
Zatlers, whose presidential term expires on July 7, lost support among lawmakers in late May after he accused them of being soft with corruption and called for the dissolution of parliament. A referendum on the dissolving parliament is to be held on July 23.
Berzins won with 53 votes against 41 for Zatlers in a second round of voting after neither candidate received the required 51 votes in the 100-seat legislature in the first round.
Andris Berzins was born in the Vidzeme Province town of Nitaure in 1944. He graduated from Riga Politechnical institute in 1971 with a degree in radio engineering. Berzins also has a degree from the University of Latvia’s Economy faculty.
In 1990, Berzins was elected to the Supreme Council where he was a member of the Popular Front group. He is one of the Supreme Council’s members who voted for the Declaration On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on May 4, 1990.
In 1993, Berzins was appointed president of Latvijas Unibanka, and held the post until January 2004. From December 2006 to April 2009, Berzins was acting chairman of the Latvenergo council.
Berzins attempted to return to politics in 2005 when he participated in Riga City Council elections as the leader of the Union of Greens and Farmers’ ticket, although he was not a member of the union. In the fall of 2011, Berzins was elected to the 10th Saeima.