Two break ranks from New Era

  • 2004-10-06
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - New Era, Latvia's most popular political party, lost two deputies on Oct. 1 when former Interior Minister Maris Gulbis (photo above) and Inara Ostrovska left the center-right party over dissatisfaction with its undemocratic leadership.

Rumors about the two MPs' exodus had been circulating for some time, and it is not clear how New Era - which has lost its third deputy this year - would react to the loss. Gulbis had publicly talked of the possibility of leaving the party. In a recent interview, he said that "time would tell." New Era members claimed he rarely attended party meetings.

Gulbis said he would remain faithful to the New Era electorate that put him in power and would work toward toppling the current minority coalition. He admitted, however, to mulling over the creation of a new political entity - The New Democrats.

Many analysts have stated that Gulbis, a young politician, harbors big political ambitions.

Faced with massive speculation about a possible new party, Gulbis was forced to deny rumors that any party he would form would have ties to Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, one of Latvia's oligarchs.

Andrejs Pantelejvs, an aide to Prime Minister Indulis Emsis, said that the country was ready for a new political party, while former President Guntis Ulmanis publicly endorsed Gulbis' ambitions.

But Gulbis also met with the right-wing party For Fatherland and Freedom to discuss cooperation in Parliament.

For now, however, he and Ostrovska will remain independent deputies, though there was talk they might also form a shadow Cabinet, an idea that was ridiculed by New Era officials and political scientists alike.

Daunis Auers, a political scientist at the Eurofaculty told The Baltic Times, said that forming a shadow cabinet would be unworkable due to manpower constraints.

In countries that have shadow cabinets, such as the U.K., usually they take over the ruling government falls. But in Latvia's political landscape this was unlikely to happen, since any new government would have at least some coalition members as well, making any shadow cabinet a "pointless exercise," Auers explained.

New Era responded to the departures with acid condemnation, though the tone of criticism simmered when it became apparent that Gulbis might side with ally For Fatherland and Freedom.

Ostrovska, for her part, drew criticism in early September for asking Parliament to pay for a trip to an Italian fashion show. Parliament's presidium, however, rejected the trip. Later her relationship with New Era disintegrated after she missed a vote for no-confidence in the minority coalition, a move head of the party Einars Repse openly questioned.

Earlier Repse threatened to expel Sarmite Kikuste for voting in favor of amendments to the national budget, something she said she had to do to please her constituents in Latgale.

Due to New Era's woes, deputy faction head of New Era Linda Murniece resigned her post this week. She will though remain in the party.

Just how fragmented Latvia's most popular has become isn't clear.

Andrejs Radzevics, current minister for regional development, left New Era earlier this year after the party lost control of government.