The third shortest government under the second longest-serving prime minister falls

  • 2023-08-17
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) on Thursday submitted a letter of resignation to President Edgars Rinkevics, and, thus, officially the third shortest government in the Latvian history led by the second longest-serving prime minister has fallen.

According to LETA's estimates, Karins' second government was the third shortest in the history of independent Latvia. It worked for a total of 246 days - from December 14, 2022, to today.

The only shorter-term governments were those of Vilis Kristopans, which lasted from November 26, 1998, to July 16, 1999, thus lasting 232 days, and the second government of Andris Skele, which lasted only 175 days, from February 13, 1997, to August 7, 1997.

Only slightly longer than the second government of Karins was the Cabinet of Ministers led by Indulis Emsis, which started work on March 9, 2004, and fell after 268 days on December 2, 2004.

Meanwhile, Karins himself is currently the second longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of independent Latvia. He took office as prime minister on January 23, 2019, after a very long attempt to form a cabinet after the 13th Saeima elections, a position he retained when the next Saeima took office. In total, Karins has spent 1,668 days as the head of the government.

The only person to have served longer as the Prime Minister is Valdis Dombrovskis, a member of Karins' party and the current Executive Vice President of the European Commission for An Economy that Works for People. He took office as the head of the government on March 12, 2009, and ended his term in the office after 1,778 days - on January 22, 2014. Dombrovskis resigned then, taking responsibility for the Maxima store collapse tragedy.

The sustainability of all the governments led by Karins has been questioned from the very beginning. After the 13th Saeima elections, the government was formed only on the third attempt - the two initial prime ministerial candidates failed to form a government, but Karins managed to get the necessary majority, forming a complex five-party coalition. The government of the time was predicted to be short-lived, given the very different ideological vectors of the parties, but contrary to predictions, the government held on throughout the 13th Saeima, even though it went through significant changes in its composition.

The second Karins' government was also formed after difficult negotiations with the parties elected to the 14th Saeima. Unlike the first Karins' government, where the New Unity had the lowest number of votes, after the 14th Saeima elections it won the highest number of seats, but Karins still failed to convince the United List and the National Alliance of the need to include the Progressives in the team at the beginning of the government formation. Karins has repeatedly pointed out that these partners hinder decision-making in the government, while the United List and the National Alliance have long stressed that the current government is the best possible.

A major turning point was the presidential elections, after former President Egils Levits withdrew his candidacy from the run. The coalition partners failed to agree on a single candidate, and the parties put forward their own - businessman Uldis Pilens nominated by the United List, while the New Unity nominated Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. The National Alliance did not put forward a new candidate, but its initial candidate was Levits. Even before the presidential elections, speculations began about the votes that would be used to elect the next president, as it was clear that the coalition votes would not be enough. In a three-candidate contest, Rinkevics was elected President - only the New Unity voted for him from the coalition, while the remaining votes were secured by the Union of Greens and Farmers together with the Progressives, whose candidate "dropped out" at the beginning of the election. The election of Rinkevics opened the way for speculation about "paying back the debt to the Union of Greens and Farmers and the Progressives".

The summer of 2023 was spent in political consultations, with Karins trying to convince his partners of the need to expand the coalition, as it would be necessary to increase the number of votes, as well as to promote "dynamism", which the prime minister felt the government lacked. The expansion of the government could be achieved by including the Union of Greens and Farmers and the Progressives, which the National Alliance and the United List continued to strongly oppose.

After the summer holidays and more than two months of negotiations, Karins came to his partners with a final offer - to rotate some ministers and agree on five priorities, promising that in case of refusal, there would be a move towards a new government. The United List and the National Alliance rejected Karins' proposal, after which Karins announced consultations on the formation of a new government. This provoked dissatisfaction from the existing partners, who said that this was unconstitutional, as only a candidate selected by the president could form a government, and that Karins had not resigned. Although initially Karins, at least according to public statements, was willing to form and lead the next government, he announced his resignation and the need for the New Unity to nominate a new candidate for the prime minister.

The New Unity now has selected Welfare Minister Evika Silina as Karins' successor, but the president still has to nominate her.