Prime Minister to go ahead with ministry slash

  • 2009-02-18
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - In a dramatic about face, Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has admitted he made a mistake in deciding against a planned government restructure.
Godmanis agreed to implement President Valdis Zatlers' demands to trim the number of ministries and overhaul state administration, following a marathon four-hour-long discussion with Zatlers on Feb.16.
The president told media that he had been successful in persuading the prime minister to reconsider his decision.

"I succeeded in convincing the prime minister that the government reorganization plans drawn up by the People's Party were the most adequate for performing these tasks and that it can be launched immediately," said Zatlers.
The president publicly expressed his lack of confidence in the prime minister after plans for a major government overhaul were abruptly abandoned on Feb. 13, leading to speculation over whether the head of government would stand down.

Godmanis previously defended the government's decision to put on hold plans to reduce the number of ministries and expand the current coalition.
Godmanis maintained at the time Latvia's economic recovery 's and not a ministerial reshuffle 's was his primary agenda.
The prime minister had previously backed plans for reorganization of ministries and state administration.
In a television interview ahead of the Feb. 16 talks, Godmanis said he had been deeply affected by the president's statement of loss of confidence
"Of course, it hurts very much," said the prime minister, adding he greatly valued the president's opinion and support.

Despite reaching an agreement on the issue, Zatlers dodged media questions after the meeting on whether his confidence in Godmanis had been restored. He instead called on ruling coalition partners to focus on obligations under a Jan. 14 ultimatum issued by the president following mass riots in Riga.
"These are concrete tasks, and I categorically insist on the fulfillment of my requirements of Jan. 14 by March 31….Confidence can only be restored by completing concrete works," said Zatlers.

A government restructuring was one of a number of key demands issued by Zatlers to the ruling coalition government in the fallout from Jan. 13 riots, which erupted after a peaceful demonstration calling for the government to stand aside. The president has threatened to disband parliament if his demands are not met by the March 31 deadline.

Following the Feb. 16 meeting, Godmanis conceded he had been overly optimistic in pledging coalition support for government reorganization plans at an earlier meeting with the president.
"Yes, indeed, I admitted that when I last met with the president I was too optimistic about our chances to achieve a speedy reorganization of the government. I was mistaken, I was unable to achieve it," Godmanis said.

Opposition parties have slammed the president's decision not to force Godmanis' resignation and the deal clinched by the coalition.
Meanwhile, former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga expressed surprise at Zatlers decision to publicly announce no confidence in Godmanis, saying the move could harm Latvia's standing in the international community.
Latvian politics have been a hotbed of intrigues and maneuvering in recent months amid dwindling public support.

A question mark also hangs over the future of embattled Latvian Finance Minister Atis Slakteris.
People's Party representative Edgars Zalans told the Baltic News Service the party's board had identified several professional candidates as possible successors to the finance minister.
Public opinion on Slakteris' performance in the role has been mixed, with polls suggesting Slakteris, out of all his peers, has drawn the most critical assessment.