Latvia’s coalition government has been thrown into a crisis after six ministers, all members of the conservative Jaunais laiks (New Era) political party, quit April 7.
Einars Repše, leader of Jaunais laiks, announced April 6 that the party was leaving the government in protest over what it sees as the illegal and undemocratic practices of coalition partner Latvijas Pirmā partija (First Party of Latvia, or LPP) and especially of one of its leaders, Ainārs Šlesers.
Jaunais laiks has accused Šlesers of corruption for trying to influence the election of the head of the city council in the resort city of Jūrmala, a charge that LPP denies. Jaunais laiks also accused Šlesers, formerly the minister of communications, of illegal activities in disbursing money from Latvia’s road fund.
The rift in the government came even as President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga issued a statement April 6 calling for a reasoned approach to resolving differences among the four partners in the coalition. She said that recent accusations of corruption, incompetence and unprofessionalism could be dealt with on an individual basis and through existing state institutions, rather than leading to destabilizing the government itself.
The ministers who resigned are Solvita Āboltiņa, minister of justice; Ina Druviete, minister of education and science; Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, minister of economics; Ainars Latkovskis, special assignments minister for society integration affairs; Linda Mūrniece, minister of defense, and Jānis Reirs, special assignments minister for electronic government affairs. Their duties temporarily will be handled by other ministers.
The coalition government has been in power since December 2004. Led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis, it also includes ministers from two other conservative parties, Tautas partija (People’s Party) and Zaļo un zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers, or ZZS).
With the departure of Jaunais laiks from the coalition, Kalvītis is now in charge of a minority government. Political observers in Latvia are questioning whether the government will be able to last until the next parliamentary election, which is scheduled Oct. 7.
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