Latvia nominates new PM candidate

Latvia nominates new PM candidate
By bne IntelliNews January 8, 2019

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vejonis nominated Krisjanis Karins, the leader of New Unity, the smallest party in the atomised Latvian parliament, as the new candidate for the post of prime minister on January 7.

Latvian political parties have been unable to agree on a working government coalition since the election in early October produced a parliament of seven parties. 

Karins, 54, is a US-born former economy minister and also an incumbent member of the European Parliament. Following his nomination, Karins said he would prioritise putting the country’s financial sector in order as well as combating corruption, reforming education, the liquidation of a controversial surcharge on electricity bills and improving healthcare, Latvia’s state broadcaster LSM reported.

Karins said he would pursue building a five-party coalition government including his own New Unity, the New Conservative Party, the populist KPV and the National Alliance and liberal For Development/For! The potential coalition would have a majority of 66 seats in the 100-seat parliament.

Vejonis acknowledged the challenges that face Karins in forming a new government, according to a statement issued after the meeting between the two at Riga Castle. 

“One expects that the work on the government declaration will not be easy, because the political parties have given a number of promises to their voters, for full implementation which there will probably be insufficient financial resources in the state budget this year,” the president said. 

“In order to avoid possible risks to the stability of the government in the future, it is important for political parties to find common denominators about the sequence and timing of the priorities with the greatest impact on the state budget at the time of making the declaration.”

He also commented on possible appointments under Karins, saying: “I believe that the current candidates for the positions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and of the Minister of Defence are knowledgeable and have the necessary experience to fulfil the duties vested in them professionally if the Saeima approves the government in such a composition.”

Following the October vote, the Harmony party emerged as the winner with 23 seats in the 100-seat parliament. However, other parties ruled out forming a coalition with Harmony because of the party’s apparent pro-Russian stance, a huge political liability in Latvia. Latvia was once a part of the Soviet Union and is currently an enthusiastic member of the EU and Nato.

Previous nominees for the prime minister position included the leader of the New Conservative Party (JKP) Janis Bordans and Aldis Gobzems of the Who Owns the State? party, neither of whom managed to form a government.