Latvian Parliament elects first openly gay president of a Baltic nation

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05/31/2023

HELSINKI — Latvian lawmakers on Wednesday picked the country’s long-serving popular foreign minister, a strong backer of Ukraine, as its new head of state in a tight vote. The 100-seat Saeima legislature elected Edgars Rinkēvičs, the country’s top diplomat since 2011, as president to serve for a four-year term. He received 52 votes, one vote more than required to win. Incumbent Egils Levits, Latvia’s head of state since 2019, didn’t seek re-election. Rinkēvičs, who announced in 2014 that he is “proudly” homosexual, will be the first openly gay president in the Baltic nations — all former Soviet republics where attitudes to sexual minorities have been less tolerant than in western Europe. His closest rival, businessman Uldis Pīlēns, got 25 votes in the third round of voting between the two remaining contenders after the third candidate, Elīna Pinto, had dropped out of the contest. After the vote, Rinkēvičs tweeted that he was “honored and humbled” by the Parliament’s decision and pledged “to serve the people of Latvia well.”

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