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Latvian government in turmoil

Oct 19, 2007
By TBT staff and wire reports

Latvian government in turmoil
OUT OF OFFICE: The loss of Pabriks could presage the fall of the Kalvitis government
RIGA -- Latvian Regional Development and Municipalities Minister Aigars Stokenbergs has been expelled from the ruling coalition People's Party on Oct. 19, according to Stokenbergs himself.

The minister told the Baltic News Service that People's Party leader and Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis informed him that he would request the resignation of the minister, and the majority the People's Party board voted for his expulsion on Friday.

"I am expelled for splitting the People's Party," said Stokenbergs. "The reason is obvious - my influence in the party was growing and the founder of the party [Andris] Skele did not want to lose his positions," the minister said.

He told BNS that he "will continue working" and intends to return to parliament.

In a parallel development, Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks resigned on Friday, the Foreign Ministry has confirmed. Pabriks had gone against the party line and criticised the decision to remove anti-corruption boss Aleksejs Loskutovs from his position in a statement published on the Foreign Ministry's website. The statement has subsequently been removed.

Pabriks told the press there are a number of issues on which his opinions differ from those of the board of the ruling People's Party. Pabriks voiced respect for his party, however, and said he does not intend to terminate his membership.

Pabriks said he realized that the government has been put in a "difficult situation", as there are several issues that need to be addressed, for instance, the draft budget and the border treaty with Russia. The politician admitted it was difficult for him to work without the full confidence and support of the party.

The resigning minister said he cared for national interests and Latvia's international reputation, but there are "personal limits".

Pabriks also revealed he was the only member of the cabinet to vote against the expulsion of Regional Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Aigars Stokenbergs from the People's Party.

However, in an unexpected twist, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said he would not accept the resignation of Pabriks.

After a joint meeting of the board and parliament faction of the People's Party, the prime minister told journalists Pabriks had to complete the work he had started.

Talking about the expulsion of Aigars Stokenbergs from the People's Party, Kalvitis said that he did not comply with party opinion. He added that he does not see any parallels between Stokenbergs and Pabriks.

Meanwhile Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis claims that although ex-premier Andris Skele and Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs wield influence in Latvia, neither of them can influence investigations conducted by the Prosecutor General's Office.

"The persons you mentioned are surely not the least influential ones in Latvia. But they cannot influence investigation processes in the Prosecutor General's Office," the chief prosecutor said in a morning TV interview.

Ex-prime minister Skele has been mentioned repeatedly in the so called "digital television" case, while Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs is facing bribery charges and is currently under house arrest.

By the afternoon of Oct. 19, the government was still insisting that it would stay in power in order to see through its draft budget.

Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told the press after a coalition council meeting that talks with trade unions should be started as soon as possible in order to reach an agreement.

Kalvitis said that approving next year's budget was the most urgent issue and only then would a decision be made about changes in the government or its dissolution.

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