People's Party makes passes at right-wing opposition

  • 2004-07-22
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - Citing tangible difficulties in passing vital legislation in a minority government reliant on support from the center-left, the People's Party on July 20 said it was leaning toward closer cooperation with the right-wing opposition and Latvia's most popular party, New Era.

Defense Minister Atis Slakteris said that the People's Party would engage in new talks with New Era, and that these shouldn't be interpreted as negotiations but even active cooperation.
"Who knows - maybe in the future we can form a government together with New Era," he said.
Aigars Kalvitis, a People's Party member, also said that his party did not want to continue to work in a coalition that had to depend on "outside help" to pass legislation.
In addition to suggesting more active engagement with the right-wing opposition, the People's Party said that the July 21 confirmation vote for foreign minister would be the litmus test for this government.
Fortunately for the coaltion, the confirmation succeeded.
On July 21 Artis Pabriks, head of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, was confirmed as foreign minister, gaining 55 votes, with 31 opposed.
The vote was crucial for the People's Party, since it wanted to keep the Foreign Ministry portfolio after Rihards Piks was elected to the European Parliament.
But with only 47 votes in the legislature, the minority Cabinet is looking increasingly tenuous, especially after the Europarliament elections, when nationalist parties took seven out of nine years.
For that reason the minority government, made up of Greens and Farmers, the People's Party, and Latvia's First Party, has had to rely on the National Harmony Party's nine votes to remain in control and pass legislation.
However, the National Harmony Party, on whom the minority coalition has leaned on for help is getting legislation passed, said it would not support someone like Pabriks since they consider his political views too nationalistic.
Realizing that it faced a new government crisis in the midst of the holiday season, the National Harmony Party chose to back Pabriks on the logic of the "lesser of two evils."
At the same time Pabriks would ordinarily find support among his ideological allies in New Era and For Fatherland and Freedom, but they also have publicly spurned such support since he is a member of the opposition.
"We will not support any candidate from this minority coalition," head of the New Era parliamentary faction, Krisjanis Karins, told The Baltic Times.
Despite the levity of the situation, the head of the government kept his calm throughout.
Prime Minster Indulis Emsis said in a radio address on the 20th that a confirmation for Pabriks was all but assured.
Still, the move by the People's Party to hint of forming a new government with New Era may have been used to pressure their center-left allies into supporting Pabriks' nomination.
In this sense, the same tactic is likely to be employed again and again: Either work with us, the People's Party is telling center-leftists, or we'll leave the coalition and form and new right-wing government where you'll have absolutely no say.
"I will be meeting with the National Harmony Party on the 21st to discuss my candidacy. I believe there will be enough votes for a confirmation," Artis Pabriks told The Baltic Times on the eve of the vote.
"If we cannot confirm a foreign minister, then this government will be in trouble," he added.
The People's Party palm branch may also be due to both fatigue at appeasing the center-left, or it could just be the continuation of the status quo, observers said.
Pabriks, 38, graduated from the University of Latvia and holds a doctorate of political science from the University of Orhuus.