The opening rounds of debate in the upcoming presidential elections are now scheduled be held on May 31 during a regular plenary session. The results of a survey conducted by a group of social sciences students on the popularity of 20 prospective presidential candidates, released on May 22, found former University of Latvia rector Ivars Lacis to be the favorite, with the support of 30.2 percent of respondents. He is closely followed by Maija Kule, head of the Institute of Philosophy and Social Sciences. The next most popular presidential candidates in the poll included former Latvian Constitutional Court chairman Aivars Endzins and New Era MP Sandra Kalniete.
In the latest flurry of drunken tourists doing stupid things, five Portuguese nationals and two Spanish nationals were detained for destroying a Latvian flag on May 16. They had been trampling on the Latvian flag in the Old City and were caught later in Pardaugava. The men were visibly drunk, and officers found more damaged Latvian flags on them. If found guilty of desecrating a national symbol they could face jail terms of up to three years, community work or fines of up to 50 minimum wages.
Two visibly drunk men were detained on May 21 for starting a fire on the Regina Baltica, Tallink's Stockholm-Riga ferry. While no one was hurt, early estimates rate the fire as having caused more than 1,000 lats (1,400 euros) worth of damage. The men are accused of damaging property in a dangerous manner and if convicted face sentences of three to 10 years in jail.
On May 22 the governmental press service reported the total amount of damage caused by the Belarusian oil spill which leaked into the Daugava in March. There has been a total loss to Latvia of 324,123 lats (461,200 euros), it announced. An accident at the Unecha-Ventspils oil pipeline in Belarus' Vitebsk region on March 23 resulted in 4.17 tons of diesel fuel leaking into the Daugava. The fuel also made its way to the Ulla, a tributary to the Daugava, and the spill reached Latvia on March 26.