RIGA - The left-of-center National Harmony Party called for the end of the current government on Sept. 6 due to its lack of compromise on the education reform, and promised to file for a vote of no-confidence as early as next week. However, right-of center critics New Era and For Fatherland and Freedom were not enthused by the move, and initially said they would not support the no-confidence vote, but later claimed they would consider it.
The current government made up of the Greens and Farmers, Latvia's First Party, and the People's Party controls only 47 votes, and holds power with the help of the National Harmony Party's nine seats.
"It is growing already shameful to support this government," the Baltic News Service quoted National Harmony Party leader Janis Jurkans as saying.
Former Prime Minister Einars Repse from New Era even claimed that the move by the National Harmony Party may have been orchestrated by the government itself, since the call for a no-confidence vote to bring down the government occurred while New Era and the People's Party were in continued negotiations over forming a new coalition.
This was bitterly denied by National Harmony Party members.
"It's very difficult for me to comment what Mr. Repse says," said Boris Cilevics, a harmony party MP. (See interview on Page 18.) "He has his own way of thinking, his own logic which is rarely understandable for other people. And his suspiciousness 's let's say it borders on paranoia. It's clear it's a part of his main ideology, right-wing populism."
For Fatherland and Freedom, another right-wing party, was also suspicious of the National Harmony Party's motives, with Chairman Janis Straume saying that if New Era proposed a vote of no confidence, then it would be a different thing.
The National Harmony Party failed to win a seat in the Europarliament elections in June, as ethnic-minded minority voters chose Tatyana Zdanoka from the more radical leftwing For Human Rights in a United Latvia.
The latter did, to be sure, offer its support to the no-confidence effort due to dissatisfaction over the education reform.
The Socialist Party, which has five seats in the 101-seat legislature, was reportedly undecided.
It was unclear how the situation would unfold as The Baltic Times went to press on Sept. 8, since talks between New Era and the People's Party, the two parties must likely to form the core of a new government, broke down in acrimony.
New Era reportedly demanded the seat of prime minister in a new government, something that the People's Party believed should go to them since New Era headed the government that had been in power from November 2002 to February 2004.
"For at least five weeks we have been in talks with the People's Party and we have found broad common ground on a number of issues," New Era parliamentary faction head Krisjanis Karins said. The People's Party had earlier issued an ultimatum that only Repse not be prime minister in a new coalition, but on Sept. 7 it amended its position: New Era could not hold the top position at all, Karins said.
"We will continue criticizing the current government and waiting humbly until the next election, to receive the nation's verdict," Repse said after the failed talks.
Head of the People's Party Atis Slakteris said that his party needed the top seat in government to ensure equal weight in any new coalition. Slakteris also said he was holding out hope that talks would continue.
The prime minister's seat, however, appeared to be a red line for New Era.
After the failed talks New Era's attention will turn back to the vote of no-confidence which may happen as early as next week.
"Certainly the writing is on the wall for this government 's this situation cannot go on forever," political analyst Karlis Streips said. "There is nothing substantially different in New Era's and the People's Party's economic policies."
The analyst added, however, that personalities such as Repse's were possibly holding up a new deal.
Others disagreed and said that this government would continue on as it has before.
"Probably one of the main factors prohibiting New Era and the People's Party from working together is that psychologically these parties probably cannot work together," sociologist Aigars Freimanis of Latvijas Fakti, a polling agency, said.
New Era, the largest party in Parliament with 26 members, may continue to lose more seats in the legislature should former Interior Minister Maris Gulbis leave. In a recent interview with Neatkariga Rita Avize he openly talked of the possibility.
In addition, New Era MP Sarmite Kikuste may be forced to leave as well for breaking party discipline and supporting the recent budget.