Vote for new Latvian president could break up ruling coalition

Vote for new Latvian president could break up ruling coalition
Riga Castle, the Latvian presidential residence. / Diego Delso
By `Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius May 30, 2023

Latvia's ruling three-party coalition is tottering on the edge of collapse over the election of the country's next president, which should take place in parliament on May 30.

The election of Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics could precipitate the formation of a new coalition under the ruling New Unity party as the other two coalition parties are unhappy about New Unity holding the presidency as well as the premiership.

The governing New Unity party and the opposition Union of Greens and Farmers and the Progressives appear close to  an agreement on the election of  Rinkevics as the country's next president, Ainars Slesers, leader of the opposition Latvia First party, told LETA, a Latvian newswire, on May 29.

Asked about the possibility of Rinkevics winning the presidential election in parliament thanks to 52 votes from his New Unity party and the Union of Greens and Farmers and the Progressives, Slesers said that information at his disposal suggests that such an agreement could be reached. It takes at least 51 votes to elect the president. 

Slesers also noted that informal conversations suggest that in this context Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) might reprimand some of the coalition partners for not being prepared to carry out necessary reforms and hint at a possible resignation. This talk, however, might just be a ploy to scare the coalition partners, said Slesers. 

Considering the speculations about New Unity's possible agreement with Greens/Farmers and the Progressives, Slesers concludes that the current coalition has practically broken up and a new government is being put together, which in Slesers' view makes sense, as the current government is dysfunctional and incapable of taking decisions. 

Slesers voiced surprise over New Unity's willingness to make peace with former Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs' Greens/Farmers party after Lembergs' blacklisting in the US thanks to Rinkevics and former justice minister Janis Bordans' efforts. 

Latvia First has already said that it will not be a part of such a 52-vote coalition. If New Unity does not end up in opposition and Rinkevics is elected president, Latvia First is determined to collect voters' signatures to initiate a referendum on dissolution of the current Saeima.

As reported, the nine MPs representing Latvia First party will vote for Uldis Pilens in Latvia's upcoming presidential elections, Slesers told LETA. The decision was taken after MPs of Latvia First party met with Pilens, the presidential candidate nominated by the United List. Now, it is up to Pilens to meet with other political groups in the Saeima and secure their support for his candidacy, Slesers said.

As reported by bne IntelliNews, political parties represented in the Saeima have nominated three presidential candidates. The United List has nominated its founder, entrepreneur Uldis Pilens, the prime minister's New Unity has proposed Rinkevics (New Unity) for president, and the opposition Progressives party has nominated public governance expert Elina Pinto.