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Latvian Foreign Minister Rinkevics chosen as president

May 31, 2023

Edgars Rinkevics has ascended from foreign minister to president following a parliamentary vote. He will be the first openly gay politician to hold the largely ceremonial role.

Newly elected Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics, centre, gestures as he walks outside of the parliament building after lawmakers elected him in Riga
Edgars Rinkevics is Latvia's new president after winning a vote in parliamentImage: Roman Koksarov/AP/picture alliance

Latvia's parliament elected Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics as the country's new president on Wednesday.

The 49-year-old has served as the top Latvian diplomat since 2011 and had been a long-term supporter of Ukraine against Russian aggression, especially since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year.

Rinkevics ascended to the largely ceremonial role of president after his predecessor, Egils Levits, decided not to run for a second term.

"I will do everything for our country to prosper and be secure," Rinkevics said after the parliamentary vote.

Latvia's first gay president

The election of the former foreign minister has also given the Baltic country its first openly gay head of state.

Rinkevics came out in 2014, becoming the first prominent political figure in Latvia to do so.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated the new president and called him a "true friend of Ukraine."

Former President Levits also expressed his support for Rinkevics. "Latvia will be in safe hands during the next four years," he said.

Unlike some countries, such as the United States, real power in Latvia lies with the prime minister's office, currently held by Krisjanis Karins.

Latvian foreign minister: Europe is united on Ukraine

Pro-Western president

Rinkevics won 52 of the 87 votes that were cast for the presidential role. He had been seen as the strongest candidate, but this had been thrown into a bit of doubt thanks to a disagreement between the three parties of the ruling coalition.

As foreign minister — the longest-serving in Latvia's history — Rinkevics pushed a pro-Western and pro-EU agenda all while highlighting his country's role as NATO's eastern flank, bordering Russia.

He also repeatedly pushed for Ukraine's accession to both the European Union and NATO.

It was not yet clear who would replace him as head of the Foreign Ministry.

"I will do everything so that our country thrives, that it is safe and that our society holds strongly together," Rinkevics said after the vote.

ab/msh (AFP, dpa)