Latvian government rallies around Kalvitis

  • 2007-10-23
  • By Mike Collier in association with BNS

STILL IN CHARGE: Kalvitis lives to fight another day

RIGA 's Aigars Kalvitis has survived the first in a series of crucialvotes that will dictate his political future. Kalvitis carried the dayearly on Oct. 23 in a hastliy-convened no-confidence vote in theLatvian parliament, the Saeima.

Following a three-hour debate, 38 MPs voted against Kalvitis while 56supported him. One member, Visvaldis Lacis, abstained from voting andthere were five no-shows.

The vote represents a boost for Kalvitis' chances of staying on after adecidedly shaky week that saw the resignation of Foreign Minister ArtisPabriks, the sacking and expulsion of another minister, AigarsStokenbergs, and mass demonstrations outside parliament.

With no defections at all from the four governing coalition parties,Kalvitis can claim that his administration remains united and will turnto the next task on the agenda 's trying to get parliament to approvehis 2008 budget proposals. A vote on that crucial issue will take placeon Wed. 24 Oct.

The prime minister, in power since December 2004, defended his decision to suspend Loskutovs before the vote.

"Did I act correctly from the point of view of political convenience? Possibly not," he said. "Still, I consider this to be the most honest action in the long term."

Those words represent a significant shift in his strategy to retain power. Until now, it has been the opposition claiming that they have been acting on matters of principle, but it seems that Kalvitis will now attempt to portray himself as a man prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions even if they result in causing severe political damage to himself.

The government is expected to face a third crucial test when lawmakers vote on the proposal to sack Aleksejs Loskutovs, head of the KNAB anti-corruption bureau . No date has yet been set for that ballot.

"It is very difficult to imagine that this government will work the full term," said Krisjanis Karins, co-chairman of the opposition New Era party.