Ministerial posts remain open

  • 2010-04-28
  • From wire reports

RIGA - Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era) continues his work to reach agreement with the coalition parties over candidates to fill three ministerial posts left vacant when the People’s Party pulled out of the ruling coalition in mid-March. If agreement isn’t reached, the respective parliamentary secretaries will be appointed to the posts, said New Era chairwoman Solvita Aboltina, reports news agency LETA.

At a meeting on April 26, it was agreed to forward former diplomat Aivis Ronis’ name as candidate for the office of foreign minister. Prior to the meeting, the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) had forwarded its candidates for the vacant posts, including Ronis, who is an experienced and professional candidate, said ZZS Saeima group leader Augusts Brigmanis. For health minister, ZZS supported Civic Union candidate Antra Sakne; for justice minister, the party wished to see former minister and For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK member Gaidis Berzins in the post.

If a solution isn’t found for filling the empty ministerial posts, the coalition can also fill the vacancies of the health minister and the justice minister through a rotation of other ministers, said New Era parliamentary group head Dzintars Zakis. However, considering that the foreign minister has a full schedule, there has to be a full-time minister in this post, suggested Zakis.

ZZS may have other reasons to want the justice minister’s post, which are most probably in Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs’ interest, reported the daily Diena on April 21.
Several sources told the newspaper that Lembergs would like the justice minister’s portfolio to go to the ZZS or a candidate loyal to Lembergs because the Justice Ministry supervises the Register of Enterprises. The latter is of crucial importance so that Lembergs could retain control over the joint-stock shipping company Latvia’s Shipping (LK).
Although the decisions of the chief state notary of the Register of Enterprises are formally independent from the justice minister, the minister has the right to review complaints over the Register of Enterprise decisions, and either ignore such complaints or suggest that the Register of Enterprises revises a given decision.

At the end of January, Lembergs lost control over the largest LK shareholder, the joint-stock company Ventspils nafta (Ventspils Oil, VN), to the international corporation Vitol and the so-called opponents of Lembergs. It would be logical to expect that an LK shareholders meeting had to be called to replace the LK council, where the majority remains loyal to Lembergs, however, despite VN’s attempts at this, no LK shareholder meetings have taken place as yet.
The Register of Enterprises is also involved in the power struggle. The Register of Enterprises has already helped Lembergs once, rejecting a petition from VN requesting that an extraordinary meeting of LK shareholders be organized. Two weeks ago, VN handed in another petition requesting an extraordinary LK shareholders meeting to be called no later than April 26. Formally, the Register of Enterprises is to reply by April 30.

The Press Service of the Register of Enterprises stressed previously that the Register of Enterprises is independent in its decisions, and its decisions are always made in accord with the law. The justice minister has the right to open a disciplinary case against a judge if complaints are received from persons involved in the given litigation. Lembergs is a defendant in a large-scale criminal case, and he and his attorneys have been making many such complaints.

The minister also has the right to propose amending laws regulating the work of the authorities, including the prosecutor’s office and the Corruption Prevention Bureau. The current laws make it impossible for the minister to get involved in the work of, for instance, the Prosecutor General’s Office, which has been sharply criticized by Lembergs, because the law states that the prosecutor’s office is an independent institution. There has been talk behind the scenes at Saeima that amending the Law on Prosecution should be considered, to make the prosecutor’s office responsible to the government and, more specifically, to the Ministry of Justice.