Out with the old, in with the old

  • 2007-12-21
  • By Mike Collier in association with BNS

WHAT'S THE PLAN? Godmanis believes his new government can win back public trust.

RIGA -- Following an extraordinary session of Saeima, the Latvian parliament on Dec. 20, the country emerged with a new government headed by Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis.

However, hopes that the new year would see a genuinely fresh approach from a new administration look questionable given the fact that the coalition government is formed of exactly the same four parties as the previous government.

Godmanis' cabinet contains a few new faces, but also many familiar ones in key positions. Maris Riekstins continues as foreign minister, Helena Demakova keeps the culture brief, and Ainars Slesers carries on as Transport Minister despite being sued for 100,000 lats (xxx euros) in a defamation action brought by state Auditor Inguna Sudraba.

Recent arrival and failed prime ministerial candidate Edgars Zalans gets to keep control of the regional development ministry.

Before the vote on the new government, Godmanis said he did not see a singleminister in his government whose experience and qualifications could notbe described as professional.

Opposition figures including former minister Aigars Stokenbergs pointed out that Godmanis' previous stint as prime minister in 1990-93 was seen by many people as the time when Latvia's oligarchs rose to prominence by overseeing dubious privatization deals.

The government was approved with 54 votes to 43, without abstentions. Lawmakers from the New Era, Harmony Center and For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL) parties all voted againstthe Godmanis-led Cabinet with the exception of Nikolajs Kabanovs from PCTVL, who supported the new government.

After the vote Godmanis told the press that the new Cabinet would doeverything to refute predictions that his government would be short-lived.

Godmanis admitted it was difficult to make forecasts on the firstdecisions of the new government, but he mentioned the floundering privatization ofLattelecom, the regulation of tariffs and the wageincreases promised to medics, policemen, teachers and others as the mosturgent issues his ministers would have to address.

Only four of the nominated ministers were not part of the previous government headed by Aigars Kalvitis.

The People's Party will have seven ministerial posts in the new government-- Maris Riekstins as foreign minister, Atis Slakteris as financeminister, Vinets Veldre as defense minister, Helena Demakova as cultureminister, Edgars Zalans as regional development and municipal affairsminister. The new ministers delegated by the People's Party are parliamentlegal committee head Mareks Seglins as the interior minister and Kuldigahospital director Ivars Eglitis as health minister.

The Greens' And Farmers' Union (ZZS) will be represented by five ministers, including fourwho served in the outgoing government: Martins Roze asagriculture minister, Raimonds Vejonis as environment minister, IvetaPurne as welfare minister are joined by new education and scienceminister Tatjana Koke.

The premier's LPP/LC party will have three more ministerial posts --Ainars Slesers as transport minister, Ainars Bastiks as children's andfamily affairs minister, and Oskars Kastens as social integrationminister.

TB/LNNK will be responsible for three positions: Gaidis Berzinsas justice minister and Normunds Broks as European Union (EU) fundsabsorption minister are joined by Kaspars Gerhards as economics minister, filling a vacancy that has been open for three months.

Former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis announcedin early November that his government would step down on Dec. 5 because it had lost the trust of the public. Now a cabinet consisting largely of the same people will attempt to win back that trust.