Latvia awaits word on makeup of new Dombrovskis government

Latvia may learn Friday who will be in the proposed new government that in all likelihood will be headed by current Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, according to media reports.

It is already clear that one political party that was mentioned as a potential coalition partner—the center-left and pro-Russian Saskaņas Centrs—will not be at the table for negotiations on how to divide up ministerial portfolios. Whether the nationalist Visu Latvijai! – Tēvzemei un brīvībai / LNNK (VS-TB/LNNK) will be part of the government is doubtful.

Dombrovskis’ party, Vienotība (Unity), won 33 of the 100 seats in the Saeima during the Oct. 2 parliamentary election. Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre), earned 29, while Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers, or ZZS) claimed 22. The center-right Par labu Latviju! (For a Good Latvia!, or PLL) got 8 seats, as did the nationalist VS-TB/LNNK.

All but PLL were mentioned as potential coalition partners in recent days. Now it looks as if just Vienotība and ZZS will form the government, which would give the coalition control of 55 seats in the Saeima.

Although Saskaņas Centrs at first was destined to be in the opposition, Vienotība offered to bring its rival into the negotiations. However, talks broke down before they even started, with each side blaming the other. Saskaņas Centrs officials wanted no preconditions to their participation in a potential coalition government, but Vienotība demanded they acknowledge that Latvia had been occupied by the Soviet Union and that they guarantee the status of the Latvian language.

In an announcement on their party’s website, Vienotība leaders on Oct. 19 expressed unhappiness with Saskaņas Centrs’ unwillingness to agree to the terms.

“These proposals are fundamental,” Dombrovskis said, according to the announcement.

Saskaņas Centrs leader and Rīga Mayor Nils Ušakovs shot back with an Oct. 20 open letter to Dombrovskis. His party is ready to be part of the government and to sign on to the coalition’s declaration of goals, but Saskaņas Centrs does not understand why it was asked to agree to separate terms, Ušakovs wrote.

“It is irrational to blame your country’s citizens, just because they are ethnic Russians, for the crimes of another country’s regime that happened 70 years ago,” Ušakovs said. He added that Dombrovskis’ rhetoric divides people into “right” and “wrong” citizens, between those who are considered loyal and disloyal.

Meanwhile, the potential role of the nationalist VS-TB/LNNK is in doubt. Concerns that the party might be too conservative for the government coalition, including suggestions by some critics that the Visu Latvijai! branch is neo-fascist in orientation, has given politicians pause.

VS-TB/LNNK, in an Oct. 18 announcement on the party’s website, countered that they are ready to serve in the government, but are troubled by suggestions that nationalist issues be put aside.

“This kind of mindset, viewing that for the country’s development the only thing that matters is dealing with economic and social questions, is like building the walls of house while ignoring that the home’s very foundation has rotted away,” VS-TB/LNNK officials said in the announcement.

According to the Latvian constitution, it is up to the president to invite someone to form the new government. The Saeima confirms the government.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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