Latvian PM Silina’s government makes some noise but is running in place

  • 2024-06-17
  • Kaspars Germanis

Although the discussions about and around the current government of Latvia and its work are extensive, the feeling that this is like running in place does not leave. If one compares the government led by the current Prime Minister Evika Silina with the cabinet led by her predecessor Krisjanis Kariņs, there are both other parties and other ministers. However, several important issues still have not been resolved, and it seems that they will remain without progress.

The government of Siliņa was approved by the Latvian Parliament on September 15, 2023. The lawyer who worked as welfare minister in the Kariņš government was a little bit of an unexpected choice, as she was not the brightest politician. However, Siliņa continues the era of the “New Unity” party in Latvian politics. She is the fourth of the five prime ministers of Latvia, representing “New Unity”, which has led the Cabinet of Ministers since March 2009. Therefore, the responsibility of “New Unity” as the ruling party for the situation in Latvia is indisputable.

If compared to the previous government led by her party member Krisjanis Kariņš, there are some ministers in the government led by Siliņa who have kept their positions. Most of the ministers have been replaced, which is mainly explained by the change in the composition of the government coalition. In the government of Kariņš, the very experienced politicians of “New Unity” had two partners. The first was the “United List”, and the second - was the nationalist “National Union”. 

In Siliņa’s government, “New Unity” has other partners: the left-wing party “The Progressives”, which is less experienced in politics, but gaining more and more popularity, as well as, on the contrary, the experienced Union of Greens and Farmers, which is always associated with oligarch Aivars Lembergs, who is much less visible at the moment. Both “New Unity” and “The Progressives” once expressed that cooperation with the Union of Greens and Farmers is unacceptable, given the connection with Lembergs, who was previously accused of serious financial crimes, but in the end, these parties are currently forming the government.

However, despite the change of coalition and ministers, the government has not managed to take a step in solving the problems of several years. Among them are inequality in society, problems in regional development, and health care. Instead, talk about the growing economic backwardness of Estonia and Lithuania continues to be heard. In addition, Siliņa admits that, since budget revenues are not as high as expected, then, similarly to Estonia and Finland, Latvia could also have an austerity regime. However, national security will not suffer because of it. Also, with the decision to return to the problem later, sharp discussions about school reform have ended. Problems at different levels of education are also an old social problem in Latvia. The efforts of the Siliņa government to solve it in 2024 have ended in nothing.

The work of the government was also overshadowed by the flights of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kariņš. As prime minister, during his four-year premiership, he went on 36 foreign visits by private plane, which cost more than 1.2 million euros. The Office of the Prosecutor-General is still evaluating the validity of these expenditures, but the State Audit Office concluded that more than 0.22 million euros was illegally spent from the state budget, and 0.32 million euros from the funds of the Council of the European Union. In the end, Kariņš was replaced by assistant general secretary of NATO Baiba Braže. Finally, the financial and election scandals of “New Unity” cast a shadow over both the party and the government, as well as politics in general.

It must be concluded that Siliņa's government will hardly contribute to the economic upswing, nor strengthen the public's low trust in politics. This will not be possible due to the security situation, which will require financial investments, due to their indecision, as well as serious, long-unsolved problems. Therefore, although there are sharp discussions on various issues in politics, economy, and social issues, the loud noise does not change the fact that most likely, economic and social progress will not be achieved during the Siliņa government. Thus, running in place.

Kaspars Germanis is journalist and researcher at the Center for Geopolitical Studies Riga