Repše’s coalition government resigns

The Latvian government led by Prime Minister Einars Repše has resigned, a week after a key coalition partner withdrew its support.

Repše, whose personal style has been said to rankle several in the government, probably won’t be invited by President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga to form the next government, according to Latvian news media. “Repše already had all these months to run the government,” she told Latvian state television.

The president is scheduled to meet Feb. 9 with leaders of political parties represented in the Latvian parliament, the Saeima.

Although the coalition government had been jostled earlier by scandals and internal bickering, its stability was shaken during the last month in a tit-for-tat feud between Repše and Latvijas Pirmā partija (Latvia’s First Party). After questions arose about irregularities in Repše’s personal financial dealings, LPP deputies joined opposition members of the Saeima in calling for a special commission to investigate the prime minister. In response, Repše, head of the Jaunais laiks (New Era) party, demanded the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Šlesers, head of the LPP. In turn, LPP withdrew its three ministers from the government, leaving Repše with a minority coalition.

The final straw in part came Feb. 5 when the parliament in a 71-25 vote passed an education reform bill that Jaunais laiks called damaging to the state budget. The bill includes increased pay for teachers, a measure that would cost LVL 15 million.

Controlling only 26 seats in the 100-seat parliament, Repše decided later that day to step down.

Two parties have already said they are ready to form a new conservative coalition government, while an LPP member of parliament has called on the president to dismiss the Saeima.

LPP and Tautas partija (People’s Party) have agreed to work together with other parties—including Jaunais laiks—to form a new conservative coalition government, the LETA news agency reported Feb. 6. In all, conservatives control 75 seats in the parliament.

Meanwhile, LPP member Paulis Kļaviņš told news media that Vīķe-Freiberga should dismiss parliament and call for new national elections. Otherwise, he said, the new government likely also would be a minority coalition.

In the history of Latvia, only half of the 24 governments formed under democratic rule, Repše told the state television audience Feb. 5, have been in power for more than a year, including his. That, Repše said, points to “fundamental and deep” problems in Latvia’s government system.

Repše’s government was approved by the Saeima in November 2002.

The current government will continue to operate until a new government is apporoved.

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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