Slesers forced to resign, coalition's fate unclear

  • 2006-03-15
  • By The Baltic Times
RIGA 's Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has demanded that Transport Minister Ainars Slesers resign his post after the latter became enmeshed in a vote-buying scandal involving the Jurmala City Council.

Kalvitis' decision was announced on Wednesday just after he and Slesers met in the morning. The head of government said that the public has lost its trust in Slesers and thus the latter had no choice but to step down.

Slesers, who heads Latvia's First Party, declined to say whether his party would pull out of the coalition. The party was due to meet on Wednesday together with Latvia's Way, a liberal party that Latvia's First is cooperating with in the run-up to October's parliamentary election, to make a decision.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga stressed that it was essential to maintain the stability of the coalition.

Slesers maintained his innocence, saying as late as Wednesday morning that his "conscience was clear." He lashed out the existence of a leak in the law enforcement agencies.

The resignation was triggered by revelations that Slesers was aware of, if not involved in, an attempt to bribe a politician in Jurmala following last year's municipal election. Transcripts of phone conversations between Slesers and a Jurmala businessman, and then of former Prime Minister Andris Skele and the same businessman, were broadcast on national TV on March 12.

It appears from the cryptic texts that an attempt was being made to sway the balance of power on the Jurmala City Council in favor of a Juris Hlevickis, a mayoral candidate from Latvia's First Party.

The news has shaken up the political scene in Latvia and had quickly become the most significant political scandal since the country joined the European Union in 2004.

Prime Minister Kalvitis demanded that the Prosecutor's Office look into the leaked information.