No co-operation between Unity and Harmony in Latvia

  • 2010-10-20
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA -  Latvian  Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis yesterday announced that the core of the new coalition will be made up of Unity and the Union of Greens and Farmers, with talks still needing to be held with All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK). According to the prime minister, negotiations with Harmony Center have come to a halt.
Last week Dombrovskis announced that he will attempt to set up the next ruling coalition with four political parties - Unity, Greens/Farmers Union, Harmony Center and All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. The coalition would control almost all the seats in parliament as the premier seeks to lessen opposition to further budget cuts.

 “We need to work together to overcome the economic crisis and promote state economic growth,” Dombrovskis said last week on Latvian television. The coalition would adopt a set of common principles on the economy, strengthening of the judicial system and the fight against corruption, he said.

The plan was to bring Harmony Center, which represents the Russian minority, into government for the first time and create a coalition with 92 of 100 seats in parliament. Dombrovskis’ Latvia, which slashed spending and raised taxes to meet the terms of a 7.5 billion-euro bailout led by the International Monetary Fund, plans more austerity measures in 2011 and 2012, reports Bloomberg.

“Hopefully, All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK will agree to join Unity in the coalition together with the Union of Greens and Farmers and Harmony Center,” said Unity’s Chairman Girts Valdis Kristovskis. The Unity bloc won 33 seats in parliament, followed by Harmony Center with 29. Current coalition member Union of Greens and Farmers has 22 and All for Latvia-For Fatherland eight.

“All potential partners will be invited to join the government as equal partners, and they will be urged to put differences aside and join forces for a common goal,” Dombrovskis declared.

At the time Riga Mayor and Harmony Center Chairman, Nils Usakovs and the party’s parliament leader, Janis Urbanovics, had express their satisfaction that Dombrovskis and Harmony Center share the same understanding and that at this time the community must be unified, not divided. “We must implement the plan of action to overcome the economic crisis, at the same time retaining social stability. In agreeing on joint efforts, Harmony Center is ready to offer Dombrovskis all necessary support in parliament and government,” the party declared.

After a meeting with President Valdis Zatlers, Dombrovskis and Unity’s Kristovskis told reporters that Harmony Center will have to fulfill certain terms if it wishes to join the ruling coalition.
According to Dombrovskis, the next coalition partners will have to agree on several fundamental issues, for instance, that Latvian is the only official state language in Latvia, also recognize the fact that Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, agree on continuing the naturalization process, the foreign policy of Latvia and the development of good neighborly relations with Russia.

Harmony Center stated that it was prepared to enter talks over creating a government coalition as long as no conditions were made to the party in advance, the LNT program 900 Seconds, was told by Usakovs. He underlined that setting pre-requisites is unacceptable to Harmony Center, and the only way it will join the other parties in formation of the coalition is if Unity publicly retracts the demands expressed to Harmony Center. “Otherwise, they can go snuggle up to All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK,” he added.

Dombrovskis responded that his party was not about to retract the conditions set for membership in the proposed four-party ruling coalition. “We cannot withdraw these conditions as they are clear and logical. The Latvian language and the occupation issue are the foundation,” said Dombrovskis.

He pointed out that proposals from All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK are merely new versions of their previous requests. The prime minister underlined here that Unity has conditions for the nationalist alliance as well - stop pushing for the Latvian language as the sole language in education institutions and dropping the idea of repatriation of the ethnic Russian population.

Maris Grinblats, parliamentary leader of For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK said that Dombrovskis’ offer was “somewhat unexpected” as up to then, the talk was of a coalition made up of Unity, Greens/Farmers Union, and All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK for 63 seats. 92 are too many, he believed.

Grinblats also pointed out that it is odd that the offer was extended to Harmony Center on the day that its MPs voted against continuing Latvia’s participation in the international mission in Afghanistan, which is counter to the government’s foreign policy.

“This does not coincide with Dombrovskis’ guidelines and objectives in setting up the new government. There is no foundation to ask it to join the government because it has not changed its stance,” said Grinblats.
Speaking on Latvian State Radio on Oct. 18, All For Latvia! co-chairman Imants Paradnieks stated that the Prime Minister Dombrovskis-proposed alliance of Unity, Greens/Farmers Union, Harmony Center and All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK is impossible, claiming that “it is clear that everyone is playing games.”

Paradnieks declared that his party has made its position clear and that “Nothing has changed since the election”, adding that “If Harmony Center backs off its ‘ethnocide’ policy, then talks are a possibility.”
Dombrovskis had set a deadline for the four political entities to submit their responses about the formation of the coalition by 5 p.m. October 18. Of the parties responding to his invitation, a positive response was received by the Greens/Farmers, while All For Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK reply was “positive in principle”, the premier said, adding that “some issues are still open for discussion.”

“It is most likely that the governing parties in the 10th Saeima will operate as coalition partners, without additional cooperation agreements,” said Dombrovskis on the Latvian television program 900 Seconds, the morning of
October 20.