Latvia profile - Leaders

  • 6 October 2014
  • From the section Europe

President: Andris Berzins

Latvian President Andris Berzins
President Berzins is a wealthy businessman

Andris Berzins was voted into office by parliament in June 2011 amid a controversy over corruption.

The outgoing president Valdis Zatlers lost his bid for a second term just days after he demanded a snap general election to root out corruption.

Mr Zatlers had been widely expected to win the vote, until he accused lawmakers of being soft on graft after parliament halted an operation being carried out by the country's anti-corruption bureau.

Mr Berzins, a wealthy businessman and former head of one Latvia's biggest banks, won the backing of 53 MPs in the 100-seat parliament.

He played an active role in Latvian politics when the country regained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, but in the early 1990s abandoned politics for a career in banking.

He returned to politics in 2005 and was elected to parliament in 2010.

Prime minister: Laimdota Straujuma

The centre-right coalition led by Laimdota Straujuma won a clear majority in Latvia's general election of October 2014, a poll dominated by concern about Russia's intervention in Ukraine and its influence in the Baltic region.

The coalition parties won at least 61 seats in the 100-seat parliament. Harmony, a leftist party allied with the Kremlin party United Russia, got 24.

Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma
Ms Straujuma trained as an economist before becoming a civil servant

Laimdota Straujuma became Latvia's first female prime minister in January 2014 following the resignation of Valdis Dombrovskis, who stepped down in November 2013 saying that he assumed political responsibility for a supermarket roof collapse in the capital Riga that killed dozens.

Ms Straujuma's name was put forward for the premiership after President Berzins had already turned down several other candidates proposed by the parties in the governing centre-right coalition.

The technocratic Ms Straujuma was already serving in the government in a non-party capacity as agriculture minister - a key post in a country with a strong farmers' lobby.

She was nominated for the post of prime minister by Mr Dombrovskis' conservative Unity Party, and joined the party early in January in order to be its official nominee.

She presided over a broad coalition consisting of the three parties that were in government under Mr Dombrovskis - Unity, plus the Reform Party and the National Alliance - plus the Union of Farmers and Greens (ZZS).

Ms Straujuma vowed to continue Mr Dombrovskis' austerity-oriented economic policies in the run-up to the October 2014 general election.

Her predecessor pushed through some of the toughest austerity measures in Europe in an effort to rescue the state from bankruptcy and prepare Latvia to join the euro by 2014.

Having fallen into a severe recession in 2008-9, during the global financial crisis, the Latvian economy went on to make a strong recovery and by 2013 was the fastest-growing economy in the EU.

The measures adopted in order to prepare the country for eurozone membership meant that a majority of the austerity-weary nation was at first opposed to the changeover, but in the weeks following the adoption of the common currency, support for the euro rose to 53% - close to the EU average.

Born in 1951, Ms Straujuma trained as an economist and went on to specialise in agricultural economics. She became a senior civil servant in the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture in 1999 and was made minister in 2011.