President asks Godmanis to form next government

Ivars Godmanis, who was Latvia’s first premier after the country regained its independence, has been asked by President Valdis Zatlers to form the nation’s next government.

Zatlers invited Godmanis to form the government on Dec. 14, eight days after current Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis bowed to public displeasure and followed through on a promise to resign.

The 56-year-old Godmanis, now Latvia’s interior minister, is expected to cobble together a five-party center-right coalition. The current coalition government includes four parties: the People’s Party (Tautas partija), to which Kalvītis belongs; the coalition of the First Party of Latvia and Latvia’s Way (Latvijas Pirmā partija / Latvijas Ceļš, or LPP/LC), of which Godmanis is a member; For Fatherland and Freedom / LNNK (Tēvzemei un Brīvībai / LNNK), and the Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība). Added to the mix would be New Era (Jaunais laiks), which has been operating as an opposition party but holds almost a fifth of the seats in parliament.

Zatlers, according to a press release from his office, asked Godmanis to distribute portfolios in the new Cabinet of Ministers proportional to the seats each party controls in the parliament.

The president also asked that the number of portfolios not be increased. That may well mean some of the current ministers will not have a spot in the new government, because at least four portfolios would have to go to New Era.

Whether New Era is willing to be in the coalition remains in question. The day before the president’s announcement, New Era issued a press release saying a five-party coalition is possible only with its man, European Parliament member Valdis Dombrovskis, as prime minister. But following the nomination of Godmanis, New Era announced it will meet with him Dec. 17 to discuss what it sees as priorities for the new government.

Godmanis, formerly a physics researcher and instructor, joined the Popular Front in 1988 and became one of the anti-Soviet movement’s leaders. From 1990-1993, he was head of the Council of Ministers, the predecessor body to the Cabinet of Ministers. For the next five years, he worked in the private sector, serving as vice president of Software House Rīga, then as president of Latvijas Krājbanka and then as a member of the board of the Latvian Shipping Company. From 1998-1999 he was the finance minister, but returned to the private sector afterward. Godmanis became interior minister in November 2006.

Godmanis was one of several candidates for prime minister considered by Zatlers: Godmanis, Dombrovskis and Edgars Zalāns of the People’s Party, a relatively unknown politician who is the minister for regional development and local government affairs.

After forming the cabinet, Godmanis will have to earn the Saeima’s approval of his 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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