Prime minister Godmanis steps down

After a last-minute meeting with Latvia’s president, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis announced Feb. 20 that he is stepping down.

In a press briefing following the short afternoon meeting, President Valdis Zatlers said he had accepted the prime minister’s resignation and will begin discussions Feb. 23 on choosing someone new to lead the government.

The prime minister’s decision came hours after leaders of two coalition partners, the People’s Party (Tautas partija) and the Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un zemnieku savienība, or ZZS), told Zatlers that the government could not continue with its current makeup.

The prime minister will continue to govern until Zatlers invites a new prime minister and he or she is approved by the Saeima.

The prime minister said through a spokesman that he was ready to continue serving as long as necessary to protect his successor from assaults by the public and the mass media in the face of Latvia’s worsening economy and the need to fulfill obligations to international financial institutions.

Godmanis, a member of the First Party of Latvia / Latvia’s Way (Latvijas Pirmā partija / Latvijas ceļš), became prime minister in December 2007.

Godmanis survived a Feb. 4 parliamentary vote of no confidence that had been initiated by the opposition New Era (Jaunais laiks) party. But he irked the president the following week when the Cabinet of Ministers decided not to approve a government reorganization plan that Godmanis had promised to deliver. On hearing of the decision, Zatlers on Feb. 13 issued a statement saying he had lost confidence in the prime minister. However, following a Feb. 16 meeting with Godmanis, the two appeared to have resolved their differences.

Calls for the government to step down have been heard from different corners during the past several months as Latvia’s economy, once one of the fastest growing in Europe, began to collapse late last year.

New Era on Feb. 20 called on all parties in the Saeima, except for the pro-Moscow party For Human Rights in a United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā, or PCTVL), to talks on forming a new government.

“Parties represented in the Saeima finally have to understand their responsiblity before the voters, have to stop bickering about unimportant things and must unite for common work,” New Era Chair Solvita Āboliņa said in a press release.

Likewise, the People’s Party and ZZS announced they are ready to work on forming a new government, but also without PCTVL.

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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