Latvian premier dismisses talk of government collapse as ‘speculation’

 Latvian premier dismisses talk of government collapse as ‘speculation’
Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins' New Unity party has nominated Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (pictured) for president. / bne IntelliNews
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius May 24, 2023

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has dismissed talk of the breakdown of his government as ‘speculation’,, the English website of Latvian national broadcaster LSM, reported on May 23.

Latvias' three-party rightwing ruling coaltion has been plunged into turmoil after it failed to agree on a single candidate for president and instead two of the parties nominated their own for the election in parliament next week.

Karins' New Unity party has nominated Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics for the position of president, and the United List has nominated its founder, Uldis Pilens.

The third presidential candidate, governance expert Elina Pinto, comes from outside the ruling coalition and has been nominated by the opposition Progressives party.

Karins called the talk about a possible new core of the government coalition that would include the opposition Union of Greens and Peasants Farmers or the Progressives as speculation.

Asked whether the Greens/Farmers or the Progressives could join the current government after the presidential elections and whether a new government with new political parties in its core could be formed, Karins said: "You are now asking me to speculate about the future." The prime minister said he would rather leave speculations to political observers.

Asked whether the existing coalition parties – New Unity, United List and the National Alliance – would look for a new common presidential candidate if Latvia's next president is not elected on May 31, the prime minister said that he had already proposed to the other two coalition partners to agree on a common presidential candidate, but they refused.

The National Alliance, the third coalition party, had put forward incumbent President Egils Levits as its candidate, but after announcing his willingness to run for a second term in April, he did a U-turn and withdrew his candidacy in May after failing to win the backing of the other two coalition parties. 

The National Alliance will most likely not support any of the three candidates during the presidential vote in the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima, in a week's time, Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis (National Alliance) said on Latvian Television's Morning Panorama news show on May 23. The National Alliance controls 13 of the 100 seats in Saeima.

Puntulis admitted that the presidential elections, which will be held on May 31, have become inextricably linked to the current coalition model. According to him, the existing coalition  is the optimal one,, the English website of Latvian national broadcaster LSM, reported on May 23. He called on the coalition partners to stay together and agree on a common candidate.

"We will have shown each of our candidates, and this would be the right time to sit down at the negotiating table and agree on one that would satisfy everyone," said Puntulis.

"If we draw parallels with living together, then turning and leaving is not art, the art is to stay together after a difficult situation and solve it," said Puntulis.

 When asked about the stability of the coalition, Puntulis said he does not see any insurmountable obstacles that would prevent this coalition from continuing its work.

 The National Alliance's board member and MP Ugis Mitrevics confirmed the coalition tensions in an interview on Latvia’s TV3 channel.

"It really does look like that, and that is what is causing concerns not only within the ranks of the National Alliance, but in the political environment in general. The public is also asking whether words and deeds are two different things. So I would say that this rhetorical question is on the agenda," Mitrevics said.

Mitrevics indicated that its coalition partners are more ambitious than the National Alliance, but that the National Alliance is not offended, rather, the party questions whether the United List and New Unity really should have done as they did when they each nominated a presidential candidate after the United List refused to back Levits. 

Asked whether the National Alliance will quit the government coalition if New Unity's candidate, Rinkevics, is elected president with opposition votes, Mitrevics said that as far as the government and coalition are concerned, the coalition parties have three options. The first option is to keep the existing coalition, finding a way to cooperate. "For our partners this would mean lowering their ambitions", Mitrevics added.

The other option is for all three coalition partners to work in opposition. A third option would be to work in a new coalition, but then you have to be able to explain "why you are there and what are the principles that led me to the new coalition, possibly breaking some of my promises". Mitrevics, however, pointed out that the third option is the one that the National Alliance  considers as the least likely at the moment.

In his view, the stability of the coalition and the capacity of the government should be the top priority, because "freezing health, education, tax reforms and other issues is unfair to society".