Current New Era head Einars Repse announced that he would sell a number of his business enterprises in the run-up to a leadership battle for control of his party later this month. "I have my price, I will not sell for pennies," he said on Latvian Radio. Repse, who is defense minister, came under fire when it was discovered that a number of his properties were financed by bank loans received at a suspiciously low interest rate.
The country's population has fallen by nearly 9,000 since the beginning of the year according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office. The decline was similar in scale to the first nine months of 2004. This year, Latvia's population fell to below 2.3 million inhabitants. With low fertility rates and large numbers of people leaving for higher wages elsewhere, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have some of the steepest population declines in the European Union.
Alfreds Rubiks, the former communist mayor of Riga, had his criminal record annulled on Nov. 5 and will now be able to stand as a candidate for elections to the Europarliament. Rubiks is still prohibited from standing for elections in local municipalities and in Parliament due to his activities against the state after Jan. 13, 1991. Rubiks is the head of the Latvian Socialist Party, and his son is currently a member of the Homeland Party, a recent creation that has seats in the Riga municipality.
Janis Urbanovics was named new head of the center left National Harmony Party after a party congress vote on Nov. 5. The previous long-time leader, Janis Jurkans, stepped down from the position to show his displeasure with the so-called "business project" merger of his party with New Center, a break-away faction appealing to the same electorate.
The three-star order, the country's highest decoration, will be awarded to U.S. Senator John McCain and American-Latvian historian Andrievs Ezergailis. The second-class cross of recognition will be given to Randy Scheunemann, a U.S. NATO committee representative, and a third-class cross of recognition to Heather A. Conley, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department.
The country's anticorruption bureau will investigate an alleged conflict of interest involving new Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars and a decision he made as a city councilman in 2002. Jaundzeikars passed a country waste facility to one of his own companies while serving as a city councilman for the city of Vidrizi. Jaundzeikars rented the waste facility to one his businesses, and then allowed his Limbazu Piens dairy company to dump its waste there. The case was brought to the attention of the anticorruption bureau after Edgars Silins, who owns the forest next to the dump, complained of alleged hazardous materials placed there.