RIGA - President Valdis Zatlers on Nov. 22 called on Parliament to hold public debates on the country's next prime minister in a move to boost transparency and restore confidence in the political system.
The idea was met with near universal support from both political parties and the parliamentary speaker.
"The candidate [for prime minister] must be one with guaranteed support in Saeima," Parliamentary Chairman Gundars Daudze told journalists after a Nov. 26 meeting with the president.
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis is due to resign on Dec. 5. While the duty of appointing a new head of government falls on the president, Zatlers previously said that he would not make the decision before consulting with political parties and seeing the results of the public debate.
No date has yet been set for the public debates.
"First we have to see the composition of the possible coalition, and the candidate supported by the coalition for the prime minister's position must be known. Only then we could think about where, when and how" the public debates will be organized, Daudze said.
While neither the date nor the list of participants for the debate have yet been set, the idea to hold the debate was largely praised by politicians across the spectrum.
The Greens and Farmers Union faction head August Brigmanis, for example, said that debates should be assessed positively as "they make the process more transparent," while opposition New Era head Dzintars Zakis said debates are "a very significant instrument in a democracy."
Other politicians were a little more skeptical of the idea, however. Human Rights in United Latvia parliament faction head Jakovs Pliners praised the idea to hold public debates, but he also said that they would probably not play a very large role in the final decision.
"The real decisions will be made in the zoo or at the Dome Square," Pliners, who does not shy from provocative statements, said on Nov. 22.
For Human Rights has been castigated by all ruling parties and the main opposition party, New Era, as all have singled it out as the one party with no chance of participating in the next government.
Pliners also said that party discipline would play a major role in which candidates are supported by Saeima (Latvian parliament).
Nils Usakovs, an MP from the opposition Harmony Center, expressed concern that the debates would turn into a "public relations campaign" for the parties.
People's Party faction head Maris Kucinskis also said that the debates would only be worthwhile if the ruling coalition is unable to agree on a single candidate. He said that if the coalition put many candidates forward, then the debate could act as an "exam."
So far, only one party 's opposition New Era 's has officially put forward a candidate. The People's Party has stated it does not plan on putting a candidate forward until after Dec. 5, citing a need to come to an agreement on general issues before deciding on a candidate.
Still, the government has said there are six possible candidates for the post of prime minister, including Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis of the Latvia's First/Latvia's Way union.
Valdis Dombrovskis has already started organizing a plan for the country should he take power. On Nov. 26, Dombrovskis told journalists that New Era would offer a proposal on strengthening rule of law in Latvia.
Dombrovskis, an MEP and trained economist, also said that he is prepared to make difficult and unpopular decisions to help the country cut down on inflation.
New Era Chairman Krisjanis Karins told journalists on Nov. 26 that appointing Dombrovskis 's who is more than twice as popular as any of the unofficially named candidates 's is the only way the government can regain legitimacy.
Kalvitis has raised doubts, however, as to whether New Era will be able to successfully take part in the next government.
"New Era has not yet proven its ability to work," the outgoing prime minister said.