RIGA - Officials from New Era, the ruling right-wing party, said they would not support the candidacy of Nils Muiznieks, former integration minister, as head of the state's human rights department because he was unqualified and biased.
Muiznieks is a member of Latvia's First Party, a coalition partner, and New Era's opposition is another reminder that the four-party coalition is an untenable one. He won the competition over Liga Bikseniece, a lawyer with the State Human Rights Office. The Cabinet now must decide how to move forward.
The step by New Era will put the vote off for another week. In order to secure the position, Muiznieks will most likely have to gain support from opposition members - a development that cannot be excluded, considering the opposition's notorious dislike of New Era.
Muiznieks himself admitted that the position should be held by someone who was neutral, offering to resign from his political party should he get the job.
Meanwhile, New Era and Latvia's First Party are antagonistic. Indeed it was friction between them that brought down the New Era-led government in early 2004.
Muiznieks, who originally belonged to no party when taking the post of integration minister, was forced to join Latvia's First Party after New Era called for his removal in the summer of 2003.
"New Era has a blood feud with me and my party," Muiznieks said, adding that the Foreign Ministry had nominated him to take over the top human rights job in the Council of Europe, while New Era claims he lacks the experience for human rights work back home.
New Era, however, insists that their opposition is based entirely on professional bases and is not personal. In a press release signed by the party's board, MPs stressed that Muiznieks was a party loyalist and lacked work experience in the area of human rights.
The letter also said that his work as integration minister produced no obvious results, and that was the reason a vote of confidence was called to remove him.
The nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party also said they would oppose Muiznieks, since his work on integration issues were against the state's interests.
Current Integration Minister Ainars Latkovskis, also of New Era, accused Latvia's First Party of playing politics when it called for a time of prayer and asked for the Gay Pride Parade, scheduled for June 23, to be cancelled.
Before his work as integration minister, Muiznieks headed the Latvian Human Rights and Ethnic Studies Centre for years. He is also candidate to head the European Commission's delegation to Latvia.