Latvian government in disarray as Pabriks quits, Stokenbergs sacked

By bne IntelliNews October 22, 2007

Mike Collier in Riga -

Latvia's ruling coalition appears close to collapse on Friday October 19th with the sacking and resignation of two high-profile ministers. Both are members of the People's Party, the largest of the coalition partners and the party of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks - widely regarded as the most capable minister in government - has tendered his resignation, claiming he had been placed in "a difficult situation" by recent events and has reached his "personal limits."

But in an unexpected twist, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, just returned from the Lisbon Treaty signing, refused accept Pabriks' resignation.

The other ministerial casualty is Regional Development and Municipalities Minister Aigars Stokenbergs. Kalvitis has demanded his resignation and Stokenbergs has additionally been expelled from the People's Party.

"I have been expelled for splitting the People's Party," said Stokenbergs. "The reason is obvious - my influence in the party was growing and the founder of the party [Andris] Skele did not want to lose his position."

Twenty-four hours earlier, several thousand demonstrators assembled outside Latvia's parliament and voiced their opposition to the government.

Ongoing corruption scandals involving Latvia's influential oligarchs have eroded support for the four-party coalition, but the decisive factor has been the government's crude and possibly unconstitutional attempt to dismiss Aleksejs Loskutovs, head of the KNAB anti-corruption bureau.

Prime Minister Kalvitis personally led the attempt to sack Loskutovs for alleged minor book-keeping irregularities.

However, State Prosecutor Janis Maizitis has gone on the record saying that Loskutovs' dismissal was not justified and after days of following the party line, Pabriks performed a U-turn on Oct. 18 by publishing a statement on the Foreign Ministry website saying that "taking into account the rapidly increasing distrust towards the government, the parliament and judicial authorities, as well as growing international concern over justice and democracy in Latvia, the government must give careful consideration to this matter again."

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