RIGA - The People's Party, the largest partner in Latvia's three-party ruling coalition, announced after talks with the opposition New Era party that it did not rule out forming a new government if New Era proposed better ideas than those of Prime Minister Indulis Emsis.
New Era leader and former Prime Minister Einars Repse told reporters that his party had offered the People's Party to form a new right-wing government together with the nationalist Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK at a meeting on Aug. 3.
However, the two parties - the strongest in terms of number of seats in Parliament - will form several expert working groups to find solutions to problems in several spheres vital to the national interest - e.g., health care, finance and budget policy.
"It is important for the people that the government and Parliament yield specific results and drive to improve the living standard and economic growth," said Repse.
The former prime minister said New Era would not join Emsis' "Cabinet of left-wing and pro-Moscow forces."
Atis Slakteris, leader of the People's Party, said his party has always stressed that the best government for this Parliament would be a Cabinet composed of the People's Party and New Era.
He said the People's Party would be ready to work in a new Cabinet together with New Era if the problem solutions proposed would be better than those proposed by Emsis' Cabinet. He said the People's Party would assess the situation this month.
It was not clear how Emsis' choice to back Parliamentary Speaker Ingrida Udre for the country's European commissioner post, despite the People's Party support of Sandra Kalniete, would affect the People's Party decision. (See story on page 4.)
Repse said that forming a new government would make sense if it could do things better. New Era, he claimed, was capable of doing namely that.
Nevertheless, Slakteris described the work of the current Emsis government as very good and said the People's Party would only be ready to form a new government if it was sure it would work better.
Slakteris said the People's Party was not set to pull out of Emsis' Cabinet at this point, but he said a minority Cabinet had shortcomings that might make it difficult to adopt budgetary amendments. He voiced a hope New Era might support the budget, while Repse said that, since it was in opposition, New Era would not support the budget but would prepare its own proposals.
The ruling coalition has 47 votes in the 100-strong Parliament - the People's Party has 20 votes, Latvia's First Party 14 and the Greens and Farmers' Union 12.
In the opposition, New Era has 26 votes and the nationalist FF/LNNK seven. Among the left-wing forces, the National Harmony Party has nine votes, For Human Rights in a United Latvia six and the Latvian Socialist Party five.
Slakteris said the talks did not discuss the composition and posts of any possible new government.