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Cablegate: Latvian Parliament Installs New Center-Right Majority

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DE RUEHRA #0935/01 3551414
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O 211414Z DEC 07
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4614
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RIGA 000935

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM LG
SUBJECT: LATVIAN PARLIAMENT INSTALLS NEW CENTER-RIGHT MAJORITY
GOVERNMENT

1. SUMMARY. The Saeima (Latvian parliament) voted 54-43 on
December 20 to approve a new center-right government led by former
Interior Minister (and former PM) Ivars Godmanis of Latvia's First
Party/Latvia's Way (LPP/LC). The new government is composed of the
same four center-right parties as the Kalvitis government - People's
Party (TP), Union of the Greens and Farmers (ZZS), LPP/LC and
Fatherland and Freedom (TB/LNNK). Although the previous government
stepped down due to low public trust, the new government does not
represent any big changes: four new persons joined the cabinet,
while 14 ministers remained at their posts and 2 ministers of the
former government changed areas of responsibility. The new
government took office immediately after the vote. The four-party
coalition controls 55 seats in the 100-member Saeima. The Godmanis
government's key priorities include: rule of law, stabilization of
economic situation, improving education and health systems. We
expect no changes in the area of foreign policy or relations with
the U.S. END SUMMARY.

2. Following the resignation of PM Kalvitis on December 5,
President Zatlers offered Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis the
opportunity to form government on December 14. On December 20, the
Saeima, after a three-hour debate, approved the new government. Of
97 MPs voting, 54 backed the government (all present members of the
ruling coalition and 1 opposition (PCTVL) member. The four coalition
parties did not have any major disputes over the ministerial
portfolios. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis' new government has a
rather comfortable 55-seat majority in the 100-member Saeima. In the
new government TP has 7 ministers, ZZS - 5, LPP/LC (Prime Minister's
party) - 3 and TB/LNNK - 3.
3. The new government has 19 cabinet portfolios:

-- Prime Minister: Ivars Godmanis (LPP/LC)

New to cabinet:
-- Health Minister: Ivars Eglitis (TP)
-- Economy Minister: Kaspars Gerhards(no party affiliation but
nominated by TB/LNNK)
-- Interior Minister: Mareks Seglins (TP)
-- Education and Science Minister: Tatjana Koke(ZZS)

Changed areas of responsibilities
-- Finance Minister: Atis Slakteris (TP)(minister of defense in the
Kalvitis government)
-- Defense Minister: Vinets Veldre (TP)(minister of health in the
Kalvitis government)

Stayed in their positions:
-- Foreign Minister: Maris Riekstins (TP)
-- Culture Minister: Helena Demakova (TP)
-- Regional Development/Municipal Affairs Minister: Edgars Zalans
(TP)
-- Justice Minister: Gaidis Berzins (TB/LNNK)
-- Minister for EU assistance funds: Normunds Broks (TB/LNNK)
-- Social Integration Minister: Oskars Kastens (LPP/LC)
-- Transport Minister: Ainars Slesers (LPP/LC)
-- Children and Family Affairs Minister: Ainars Bastiks (LPP/LC)
-- Agriculture Minister: Martins Roze (ZZS)
-- Environment Minister Raimonds Vejonis (ZZS)
-- Welfare Minister: Iveta Purne (ZZS)
-- e-Affairs Minister: Ina Gudele (ZZS)


4. The new government has already received a lot of criticism by the
liberal media, political experts and political opponents for
appearing to offer little in the way of change from the Kalvitis
government despite the fact that the main reason for the resignation
of the previous government was low public trust in the government
and dissatisfaction with a number of its decisions. President
Zatlers, Godmanis and the four coalition parties claim that they
have done everything to bring a fifth party - center-right New Era
(JL) - into the government. However, JL, after a number of
discussions with Godmanis, announced that the four previous
coalition partners had enough votes to secure their decisions in the
Saeima, thus leaving JL without any possibilities to influence the
work of the government while being responsible for the decisions
taken. JL said they would not be "an appendage" to the previous
coalition and argued that there were no signals and no guarantees
that the previous coalition wanted to change anything in its work.

5. Under the government's "declaration" or action plan, its main
priorties are: stabilization of the economic situation, improving
the education system, increase of energy security, and improved
access to health care services. The declaration indicates the
government may attempt to come back to previously controversial
security law amendments and notably lacks a mention of legislation
to allow plea-bargaining in criminal cases, which was one of the
major requirements of JL. In foreign policy, the declaration offers
no surprises and offers continuity from current policy of working
within the EU and NATO and in close partnership with the U.S.

6. Comment: The public demand for changes in the government has not
been fulfilled and the public reaction to that will determine the

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future of the Godmanis government, even though it has a rather
comfortable majority in the Saeima. However, it is clear that some
changes will follow in the work of the government due to changes of
personalities. Latvian political experts are saying in the press
that Godmanis will be less dependant on a few influential people
with narrow personal economic interests in developing policy. He has
been a strong political figure in Latvian politics since serving as
the first Prime Minister after the restoration of independence and
is known for solving crises and taking politically unpopular, but
necessary, decisions. At the same time, he is also perceived as
belonging to the "old school" of politicians who do not put openness
and transparency on the top of their political agenda. Given that he
represents one of the smaller parties of the coalition, he will need
to pursue consensus on tougher issues. We have had a good
relationship with him as Interior Minister, and in previous jobs,
and expect that will continue.

WASER

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