RIGA - The head of Unity’s group in Saeima, Dzintars Zakis, said that several of his party’s MPs made a “blunder” in not voting for the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s proposals to reduce the number of local government members and change their status, reports LETA.
Zakis explained away the “mistake” by saying that the Jan. 25 Saeima session was long and that parliament members were tired. He said that Unity’s Saeima group had agreed to support the proposals, but then additional proposals were submitted.
The Unity leader said that Unity’s vote can in no way be seen as its show of attitude towards Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Edmunds Sprudzs. He also said there is no basis to speak about some sort of problems within the coalition.
On Jan. 24, Saeima members turned down the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s proposal in the first reading that proposed reducing the number of local government members and changing their status.
Thirty-eight coalition members voted for the bill, six Unity members - Arvils Aseradens, Andris Buikis, Rasma Karklina, Janina Kursite-Pakule, Janis Reirs and Inguna Ribena - voted against, and two more Unity members abstained - Ingmars Caklais and Eriks Kalnins. Overall, 41 MPs voted against granting the motion the status of an urgent bill.
Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis, head of the Reform Party’s Saeima group, said that the bill would only make sense if it was reviewed as urgent, so it would come into force before the upcoming local government elections. He agreed that Unity members voting against it were tired from the long Saeima session, and that a slightly modified bill would again be submitted to the parliament.
In another discussion at the end of January, Education and Science Minister Roberts Kilis said that if the education minister’s post becomes the subject of a political power struggle, then the government will most likely fall. Kilis emphasized that the Education and Science Ministry is an important ministry for the Reform Party, and giving this away would mean the end of the current government. “If this happens, a different government can be formed, and anything could then happen,” the minister said.
Commenting on the recent rumors that All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK) could be eyeing the Education and Science Ministry for itself, Kilis believes that this is one of the most impossible requests that they have come forward with. “I believe that this is one of the most impossible requests from them, and it is possible they made this request because they know that it is impossible. They might be deliberately making impossible requests so that they could get something else in return. The Reform Party would rather leave the government than give up the Education and Science Ministry,” Kilis emphasized.
He also said that he is not certain whether Unity would be willing to see the Education and Science Ministry in the hands of VL-TB/LNNK, even though some of Unity’s party members are against his education reforms.
Unofficially, it is being mentioned that VL-TB/LNNK wants the Reform Party’s ministerial posts and there are concerns that this could lead to the government’s downfall.
Bridge-building before elections
Showing a willingness to carry out reforms, Reform Party Saeima group chairman Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis stressed that after local government elections this spring, the Reform Party members will cooperate with such political forces in Riga City Council that will offer the party a chance to implement as much of its election program as possible,.
The Reform Party will try to make a reasonable offer to those Rigans who are unhappy with the blatant populism of Harmony Center, it says, as well as with the blatant nationalism of All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, and lately that also of Unity.
The Reform Party’s program will offer solutions to those problems that Rigans are concerned about - public transport, kindergartens, utility bills, building insulation, said Dombrovskis. “And one of the fundamental principles of the Reform Party is not to divide people into Latvians and Russians, ‘ours’ and ‘aliens,’” stressed Dombrovsis.
Cooling off period
During a Reform Party council meeting on Jan. 26, Reform Party Chairman Valdis Zatlers said that the current government is stable and that the current government must be able to work until the next Saeima elections in 2014. He said that the current disagreements within the coalition are due to the various reforms the Reform Party wishes to implement. “However, it must be taken into account that these reforms are clearly mentioned in the Valdis Dombrovskis government declaration,” Zatlers said.
Disagreements between government coalition partners on several matters that have appeared recently have led some to question the government’s future.
Dombrovskis’ government could exist in a dilapidated state for quite a while, as instability within government coalitions is the norm in Latvian politics, says political analysis Ivars Ijabs. Asked whether the instability within the government shows that Dombrovskis has lost control of the situation, Ijabs said arguments are a normal part of Latvian politics, and that this is just another case of partners arguing with one another and swaying the government.
“The search for a new transport minister has allowed coalition parties to engage themselves in petty squabbles. However, it does not look like the government will collapse anytime soon, as there is no clear alternative,” said Ijabs, who allowed the possibility that if the Reform Party “flees” the government, it could be replaced by the Union of Greens and Farmers.
However, Unity and VL-TB/LNNK will do everything not to allow such a scenario, as this could give the Reform Party a boost, as it will be able to accuse its former coalition partners of selling themselves to suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils).