RIGA -- Opposition party New Era's candidate to succeed Aigars Kalvitis as prime minister has challenged his rivals to a U.S.-style public debate in front of Tv cameras.
Zalans emerged as the People's Party's unlikely candidate on Dec. 5, beating such well-established party figures as Oskars Spurdzins and Helena Demakova to the nomination. Zalans was only recently brought in to government, replacing sacked regional development minister Aigars Stokenbergs in November. However, Zalans seems to have influential backers. The eminence gris of the People's Party, Andris Skele, has spoken of Zalans as a rising star. While such backing will have helped Zalans gain support within the party, it could prove more problematic in the country as a whole, where doubts continue to be expressed about Skele's influence.
The good news for Zalans is that the electorate will have little, if any, say in who becomes the next prime minister, but being viewed as a political placeman will do nothing to win public trust.
After a Dec. 6 meeting with President Valdis Zatlers, Dombrovskis said he will invite Zalans to participate in a public debate. It is possible, that Ivars Godmanis from LatvianWay/Latvia's First Party (LC/LPP) could also participate in any debate. He has not been officially nominated by any party yet but has been running an unofficial election campaign by giving numerous interviews to local media in an attempt to raise his profile. Godmanis was also invited to attend an audience with Zatlers, as a potential candidate.