RIGA 's The People's Party has decided to expel Aleksandrs Kirsteins for a recent string of statements that have been construed as anti-Semitic and cast Latvia in a negative light abroad.
The party's board made its decision on May 26, for behavior "incompatible with the party's program," said Janis Lagzdins, leader of People's Party faction in Parliament, adding that the vote was unanimous.
The party's board found that Kirsteins' recent conduct has "led to statements verging on anti-Semitism." Lagzdins noted that Kirsteins has a special post in Parliament and is "one of the figures by whose performance the Latvian state is being assessed abroad."
"A controversial individual who gets involved in rhetoric harmful to the state should not be in this post. We do not need Zhirinovskys in our foreign policy," Lagzdins said, referring to the Russian nationalist who is infamous for his outrageous statements.
The board also recommended that Kirsteins be dismissed from the office of chairman of the foreign relations committee and nominated MP Vaira Paegle for the post.
Asked why People's Party had taken the decision on Kirsteins' expulsion only now, Lagzdins told the Baltic News Service that he has on many occasions called on his former party fellow to "learn from the luminaries of our foreign policy, to be a diplomat," and that while Kirsteins had promised to heed the advice, he never did.
"We trusted him and hoped that he will reform, but unfortunately, he failed to keep his promises," the faction leader said.
Kirsteins responded by attacking his fellow party members in an interview to the nationalist Latvijas Avize paper, calling Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis "a collective farmer."
The ostracized MP still enjoys a level of popularity among the nationalist electorate and could form his own party. People's Party MP Dzintars Abikis was quoted as saying that Kirsteins had once approached him about forming a new "radical" political force. Abikis said that Kirsteins had made similar suggestions to other People's Party MPs and representatives of public organizations but would not give any names.
In recent weeks Kirsteins has strong criticism from the Council of Latvian Jewish Parishes and Jewish Community for his statement in which he said that the Jewish council should get rid of former KGB agents in its leadership. He also criticized lawmakers of Jewish descent in Parliament.