Latvia’s newly installed foreign minister has escaped losing his job after the Saeima defeated a Nov. 9 no-confidence vote.
Opposition politicians wanted Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis removed as foreign minister because of an e-mail exchange he had with Aivars Slucis, a nationalist Latvian-American critic of the ethnic Russian presence in Latvia.
The motion to oust Kristovskis failed on a 51-36 vote, with 12 members of parliament abstaining.
Kristovskis became the country’s foreign minister Nov. 3 when the parliament confirmed the new government led by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. Kristovskis is head of Pilsoniskā savienība (Civic Union, or PS), which is one of the political parties that make up the centrist Vienotība (Unity) bloc.
Members of the center-left and pro-Russian Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre), as well as of the conservative Par labu Latviju! (For a Good Latvia!), pushed for the no-confidence vote after the independent journalistic website Pietiek published fragments of an e-mail exchange between Kristovskis and Slucis. The website is led by the controversial investigative journalist Lato Lapsa.
Slucis, a doctor in Minnesota, in October 2009 addressed an e-mail to PS members in which he expressed his opinion about ethnic Russians and their influence in his homeland. The e-mail’s subject line read “Vai latvieši padodas?” (Are Latvians surrendering?).
“I travel to Latvia only routinely because, as a doctor, I could not treat Russians the same as Latvians in Latvia and that is not allowed and that is why I am waiting,” Slucis wrote in Latvian, according to a print-out of the exchange published by Pietiek.
Kristovsksis replied to Slucis and other PS members, noting that he agrees with Slucis’ observations. However, he also wrote that hysteria does not help and that PS politicians are defending ethnic Latvian interests. The response was copied to other PS members.
Defending his position, Kristovskis in a Nov. 5 announcement published on his party’s website said that he has never judged people based on their nationality and that he respects and tolerates people of all ethnicities. Kristovskis also noted that his e-mail response was not meant as an expression of support for Slucis, but a plea for PS members to end a discussion that was not in agreement with party goals.
Meanwhile, according to Latvian media reports, the board of directors of Pilsoniskā savienība on Nov. 8 voted to oust Slucis from the party and to return LVL 11,665 in donations the doctor made in 2009 and 2010. Slucis could not be reached for comment.
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