Karins to step down as Latvian prime minister

 Karins to step down as Latvian prime minister
Karins, chairman of the ruling centre-right New Unity party, had been trying for two months to widen his governing coalition. / bne IntelliNews
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius August 14, 2023

Long-serving Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has unexpectedly announced that he will resign after failing to persuade his current coalition partners to welcome new parties into the government. He blamed coalition partners "blocking the work for prosperity and economic growth" for his decision, according to a social media post.

Karins,  chairman of the ruling centre-right New Unity party, had been trying for two months to widen his governing coalition, which also contains the radical rightwing National Alliance and the centre-right United List, but talks broke down on Friday.

He said earlier on Monday that he intended to begin talks with the centrist Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) and the social democratic Progressives party, but this coalition would only hold 52 parliamentary seats in Latvia’s 100-strong legislature. 

Karins had also said he did not intend to resign but he then announced unexpectedly in the afternoon of August 14  that he would step down and  hand his resignation to President Edgars Rikevics during their meeting on August 17, LETA, a Latvian newswire, announced.

According to the country’s constitution, with Karins' resignation, the entire cabinet of ministers will resign, paving the way for formation of a new government.

The premier said that his New Unity party now plans to select another candidate for prime minister on Wednesday. 

Karins appears to have lost the confidence of his original partners, who argued that his decision to stay on as the prime minister after he announced a new round of coalition talks was against the constitution. 

Prior to the PM’s announcement,  the United List and National Alliance said they were sceptical about working in a new government led by Karins.

The coalition's unity had earlier been shattered by its failure to agree on a joint candidate for president. The New Unity party's decision to push through its candidate, Rinkevics, at the election at the end of May helped worsen divisions, with the United List and National Alliance angered that New Unity now held both the premiership and the presidency.

In an interview with TV3 on August 14, Latvian Parliament Saeima Speaker Edvards Smiltens (United List) claimed that Karins was violating the constitution by starting to form a new government while the current government had not stepped down.

"We need clarity as now there are several parallels in the government's work. There are very important reforms that have to be presented as soon as possible. Important issues must not be discarded in an attempt to form a new government," emphasised Smiltens.

He said that the ministers in the current government were ready to continue their work, but Karins had announced new coalition talks, "which is a flagrant violation of the constitution".

Smiltens admitted that it had become very difficult to work with Karins as the prime minister, therefore it would be very complicated for National Alliance and United List to work in a new government headed by Karins.

After the resignation announcement, Karins said he still believes that a broad coalition is in the best interest of the whole society.

"In order for us to develop better, politics must find a way to put aside petty disagreements and create a broader, stronger and more dynamic government. I think it can be done. I hope it will work and that other political forces in the Saeima will take the opportunity to look at things a little differently than before," the prime minister said.

Karins' centre-right New Unity party was the largest party in the October 2022 general election, but it only holds 26  seats in a parliament where seven parties are represented. Karins was the longest serving premier in the country's history at 1,664 days.