RIGA - Long-time Minister of Culture Helena Demakova has stepped down citing personal reasons.
In a letter of resignation tendered to the Prime Minister on Jan. 12, Demakova said: "...in a situation, where irresponsible proposals rooted in liberal ideology are in the public domain, like the merger of dozens of museums and misunderstood optimization, I can no longer take responsibility for the work of the Ministry of Culture because my health condition restricts me from becoming fully involved in the public debate and political process. The cultural sector at this time requires active leadership..."
Demakova, who is believed to be suffering health problems, said she would not return to parliament and would not run in local or European Parliament elections.
Demakova has proposed actor and businessman Juris Zagars as her successor in the post, the Baltic News Service reported. Justice Minister Gaidis Berzins will step in for Demakova until a permanent successor is chosen.
It is not clear whether her successor will be selected prior to a planned government reshuffle later this month. People's Party board member Maris Kucinskis, however, said that the party was likely to go with the minister's chosen replacement.
People's Party spokesman Arno Pjatkins praised the contributions of Demakova, saying the party was keen to retain the ministry in its control.
"The People's Party board respects Helena Demakova's decision and regards her motivation with understanding," he said.
"Demakova has provided a huge input in the development of culture and it has for a long time been a sphere of People's Party responsibility," the spokesman said.
Pjatkins refused to be drawn on the distribution of ministerial portfolios among parties ahead of the proposed government reshuffle.
"The People's Party is currently working on its vision of the government reshuffle. We are both analyzing the prime minister's proposals and working on our own. There are things on which we agree, and there are things on which we disagree," he said.
The party spokesman indicated that culture will likely remain under the supervision of a separate ministry.
It has previously reported that the Culture Ministry could be merged with the Education and Science Ministry as part of the government restructure, and that the Greens and Farmers Union would take control of the ministry.
Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, meanwhile, has declined to comment on a possible replacement for Demakova, saying only that he was aware of her ongoing health problems.
Asked if Demakova's post would be given to a representative of the People's Party, the prime minister said that the government was currently liaising with coalition partners and a decision would be reached by Jan. 25.
Pjatkins told BNS that Zagars, who is also a co-founder of the People's Party and a member of the Cesis town council, will certainly be among possible candidates for culture minister.
Zagars himself has already voiced readiness to replace Demakova as Latvia's acting culture minister.
Demakova faced increased public scrutiny recently after the government agency j3b signed a contract with architect bureau Ab.SZK on drawing up the design project for an 8.5 million euro new concert hall in Riga.
On Dec. 19 j3b released a statement saying that the agency would delay construction of the concert hall until 2011 in consideration of Latvia's grave economic situation.
Apart from announcement of her health issues Demakova has not made any public statement following news of the controversy.
A member of the People's Party board, Demakova became Latvian culture minister in March 2004, and has served not only under the incumbent Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, but also in the governments of ex-premiers Indulis Emsis and Aigars Kalvitis.
Before that she was a member of Latvian parliament.