ZRP, Unity, National Alliance announce plans for coalition rule

Latvia’s president is expected to invite current Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis to form the country’s next government after the new parliament meets for the first time Oct. 17.

The new government is expected to be a three-party coalition including the Zatlers Reform Party (Zatlera Reformu partija, or ZRP), the centrist Unity (Vienotība) and the right-wing National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”). Together the three parties will control 56 seats in the 100-seat Saeima.

After nearly a month of negotiations, the parties announced Oct. 14 that they had agreed on who will control which ministry.

Not finding a place in the coalition is the center-left and pro-Russian party Harmony Centre (Saskaņas centrs), which just two weeks ago was in discussions to form either a three- or four-party coalition with the other players. Completely shut out was the center-right Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība), with which the ZRP had said it would not cooperate.]

Ex-president Valdis Zatlers had earlier pushed for a coalition between his party, Unity and Harmony Centre, which would have given him a strong 76-seat majority in the Saiema. However, opposition from voters, as well as debate over Harmony Centre’s willingness to acknowledge the Soviet occupation of Latvia, brought an end to the plan.

By Oct. 10 the three-party coalition of ZRP, Unity and the National Alliance announced they had agreed to form the new government and were continuing negotiation details. But then two days later ZRP announced it was taken a break from the talks, blaming Unity leader Solvita Āboltiņa and National Alliance leader Raivis Dzintars with making public statements that suggested their parties were not serious about promises they were making about reforming Latvian politics and government. Although it seemed the coalition might be in doubt, the parties nonetheless returned to the table.

The 40-year-old Dombrovskis, who first became prime minister in March 2009, would return to lead the coalition government, according to an announcement posted on the ZRP’s website.

ZRP will get to name ministers for foreign affairs; economics; education and science; interior affairs; and environmental protection and regional development. ZRP also will handle social integration affairs, a function that will move from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Education and Science. ZRP also expects to control the parliamentary speaker’s post, a job that Zatlers himself wants, according to press reports.

Unity will name the ministers for finance, welfare, defense and agriculture.

The National Alliance, meanwhile, will name the ministers for justice and culture, as well as the parliamentary secretary for health and the parliamentary secretary for environmental protection and regional development.

The minister for transportation will be nonpartisan, according to the announcement, but will be overseen by ZRP and Unity.

Given that social integration, protection of the Latvian language and reform of the country’s citizenship law continue to be hot-button issues, the coalition also announced plans for how it plans to deal with them.

In the Saeima, a subcommittee of the Education, Culture and Science Committee would be created to address patriotism. The parliament’s Citizenship Law Implementation Committee would be renamed the Social Unity Committee. Both bodies are to be led by representatives from the National Alliance, according to the ZRP announcement.

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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