Government coalition calls for mayor's resignation

  • 2007-02-07
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

WAITING IN THE WINGS: Birks (above) will take over Aksenoks' position as Riga Mayor if the petition succeeds.

RIGA - A four-party coalition has submitted a petition 's signed by 26 members of the Riga City Council 's calling for the resignation of Riga Mayor Aivars Aksenoks. The new coalition has nominated Janis Birks, currently deputy mayor of Riga, as Aksenoks' replacement. In order to initiate a vote of no-confidence in the mayor, the coalition needed 20 members of the council to sign the petition.

"People have been coming and signing [the petition] eagerly," Edmunds Krastins, chairman of the People's Party, said on Feb. 2.
The four-party coalition calling for the resignation is composed of Latvia's First Party, the People's Party, the nationalist alliance of For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK 's all of whom are members of the current ruling coalition in the national government 's and the opposition Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party.

Aksenoks is a member of the center-right New Era party, which is in opposition in Parliament.
In the words of Baiba Buka, speaking on behalf of current deputy mayor and member of Latvia's First Party Almers Ludviks, "The main reason for the petition was that we asked for the resignation of Riga City Executive Eriks Skapars. They didn't replace him, so we decided to ask for the resignation of the mayor [instead]."
Last week the coalition of People's Party, For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and Latvia's First Party asked New Era to nominate a new candidate to replace Skapars, but the latter refused.

Normally the mayor heads a city's executive functions, but in Riga that job belongs to Skapars, as city executive. Mayor Aksenoks, by contrast, is chairman of the City Council.
In rebuttal, New Era accused the coalition of attempting to divert attention away from the real problems facing the city.
Skapars had been accused of illegally pandering to gambling halls in Riga. Despite the fact that Saeima (Latvia's parliament) recently passed laws strictly regulating the number of new gambling halls that could be opened, new ones "kept appearing around the city," Buka said.

However, Buka noted that Skapars was not the only reason for the petition.
"The problem is that the mayor of Riga has shown a lack of vision and an inability to work with coalitions in the city," she said.
The representative also contended that poor administration over building a new concert hall in Riga "demonstrates [the mayor's] lack of management skills."

The expanded four-party coalition was officially formed on Feb. 6, with a document outlining their goals over the next few years.
A day earlier, the coalition met to discuss possible candidates for the mayor's position and decided on Birks, a member of the right-wing For Fatherland and Freedom. The nominee stated that he was confident that members of New Era, who are currently represented by Aksenoks, would back his nomination for the post.
Meanwhile, the New Era party has invited For Fatherland and Freedom to meet and discuss cooperation. For Fatherland and Freedom, however, has responded that the invitation comes too late, and that New Era is unlikely to change their attitude.
New Era representatives were unavailable for comment.

With 20 votes in favor of the proposal, the head of the Riga City Council must call for an extraordinary meeting within two weeks, where they will hold a vote of no-confidence in Aksenoks.
The left-wing Harmony Center Party, which has four votes in the council, has announced that they will not support Birks to take the position of mayor, nor will they add their voice to calls for Aksenoks to resign.
For Human Rights in United Latvia, which has nine votes in the council, plans to wait until shortly before the extraordinary meeting to announce whether they will support Birks as the new mayor.