Valdis Zatlers, the candidate nominated by the ruling coalition, was elected Latvia's new president on Thursday.
Zalters, a surgeon, was elected in a parliamentary ballot with 58 votes to 40. His rival Aivars Endzins won only 39 votes, while 59 lawmakers voted against him.
In all, 98 of Latvia's 100 MPs cast their votes in the presidential elections.
Addressing lawmakers after the vote, Zatlers thanked the parliament for confidence, saying that it obliges him to "serve the state conscientiously."
In Zatlers' words, now it is necessary to consider two things: goals and ideals. History shows, he said, that a nation can achieve a lot if its goals are in conformity with its ideals, and it is necessary to do the utmost to achieve this again, otherwhise the people would start splitting, the incoming president said. "My dignity is the dignity of my people," Zatlers said, quoting a classical Latvian poet, and added: "It's an honor to serve Latvia".
Zatlers was nominated for the Latvian presidency by the four coalition parties 's the conservative People's Party, the nationalist alliance For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK), the bloc of Latvia's First Party and Latvia's Way (LPP/LC) the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS). The coalition chose Zatlers after it failed to agree on a single candidate. The People's Party had put forward Maris Riekstins, the head of the prime minister's office, while LPP/LC had nominated MP Karina Petersone.
TB/LNNK and ZZS argued that all coalition partners should pick one neutral candidate without affiliations to political parties.
Zatlers' candidacy was reportedly first considered a few days before the official deadline for the nomination of presidential candidates. Although Zatlers initially rejected the proposal to run for presidency, he later changed his mind.
Latvia's incoming president, 52, is married and has three children. Zatlers has graduated from the Riga Medical Institute and has been heading the main accident surgery hospital in Riga since 1994.
Zatlers started his career as an accidental-orthopedic surgeon, and later became the head of the accident surgery department of the Riga 2nd Hospital. Zatlers boasts a 15-year long international experience as a doctor.
The new head of the Latvian state has been an activist of the Popular Front that spearheaded the restoration of Latvia's independence, as well as participa