Leading surgeon Valdis Zatlers has been picked by parliament to be Latvia’s new president, despite being at the centre of a scandal. He has admitted accepting undeclared cash payments from patients but denies any wrongdoing. His supporters say the practice is common in the small Baltic nation.
The president in Latvia has limited but important legislative powers and is a key voice for the country abroad. Zatlers will replace Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who was Eastern Europe’s first female president. “Problems with doctors’ wages, of course, remain high on the political agenda,” she said today, expressing hopes that parliament choosing a doctor to replace her would boost efforts to solve those problems in Latvia’s healthcare system.
An EU and NATO member since 2004, Latvia has the bloc’s highest economic growth rate of around 11 percent, although it started from a low base. Latvians are among the European Union’s poorest people.