Vienotība announces picks for 7 ministries in new government

Seven of 13 ministerial portfolios in a new coalition government led by current Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis have been decided upon, but for the rest Latvia will have to wait to hear Nov. 1.

The centrist Vienotība (Unity) bloc announced Oct. 28 who from its ranks would head up seven key ministries, but its coalition partner, the conservative Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers, or ZZS), has yet to firm up its choices for the six ministerial chairs it will get to fill.

After weeks of negotiations following the Oct. 2 election that at one point promised a four-party coalition government—including the center-left and pro-Russian Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre) and a nationalist bloc led by the ultraconservative Visu Latvijai! (All for Latvia!)—just Vienotība and ZZS were left at the table. Together they will control 55 seats in the 100-deputy Saeima.

While Vienotība plans to keep two current ministers—Economics Minister Artis Kampars and Interior Minister Linda Mūrniece—the other five portfolios would see a shake-up.

The new finance minister would be Andris Vilks, who has served as financial and economics adviser to Dombrovksis. He would replace current Finance Miniser Einars Repše, the former Bank of Latvia president and founder of the Jaunais Laiks (New Era) party.

The new foreign minister would be Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, chair of the Vienotība bloc and of Pilsoniskā savienība (Civic Union), one of the three parties that make up the bloc. Kristovskis previously served as both defense and interior minister. He would replace current Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis.

In a move some critics see as surprising, current Defense Minister Imants Lieģis is to be replaced by Artis Pabriks, a former foreign minister and a leader of the Sabiedrība citai politikai (Society for a Different Politics, or SCP) movement, which also is a member of the Vienotība coalition. Lieģis is one of only a few diaspora Latvians to have risen to high government posts.

The new culture minister is to be Sarmīte Ēlerte, who until 2008 was editor of the then-leading national daily newspaper, Diena. After leaving the newspaper, she became involved in politics with the Meierovica biedrība (Meierovics Society). Ēlerte would replace current Culture Minister Ints Dālderis.

The new justice minister would be Aigars Štokenbergs, chair of SCP. He previously has served as economics minister and as head of the Ministry for Regional Development and Local Government Affairs. Under the current Dombrovskis administration, the justice minister’s chair has been filled by Lieģis after former Justice Minister Mareks Segliņš quit the Dombrovskis government along with other members of Tautas partija (People’s Party).

ZZS announced that its board of directors is to meet Nov. 1, after which officials would reveal the party’s choices to lead the ministries of education and science, welfare, communication, health, environment, and agriculture. ZZS officials have already said current Environment Minister Raimonds Vējonis would continue in his post.

The new government would have one ministry less than the current government. Vienotība and ZZS have agreed to eliminate the Ministry for Regional Development and Local Government Affairs, moving its functions to the Ministry of the Environment.

President Valdis Zatlers has yet to formally invite Dombrovskis to form the new government, but that is likely to happen soon. The new Saeima, which will have to confirm the government, meets for the first time on Nov. 2.

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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