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Cablegate: Saeima Elects Its New Speaker

VZCZCXRO7218
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRA #0714 2681449
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251449Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4380
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000714

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL LG
SUBJECT: Saeima elects its new speaker

Ref: Riga 654 and previous

1. On September 24, the Saeima (Latvian parliament) elected its new
speaker Gundars Daudze (member of the Union of Greens and Farmers
(ZZS) to replace Indulis Emsis (ZZS) who announced his resignation
after the Prosecutor's Office brought criminal charges against him
for giving false testimony concerning the presence of USD 10,000 in
cash in his stolen suitcase (reftels). The former speaker also
promised to resign as a member of parliament, but has not yet done
so.

2. Daudze was elected in an extra-ordinary Saeima's session with the
support of all present members of the ruling coalition (52 votes).
The opposition parties did not support the coalition's candidate and
voted for their two nominees - Ingrida Circene and Janis Tutins.

3. Getting the full coalition to agree on Daudze took time and was
achieved just a short time before the vote. The coalition did not
reveal details of the negotiations, but it did say that changes in
the composition of the cabinet wuold follow.

4. Gundars Daudze is a doctor and for several years he was the head
of the Ventspils Hospital. He entered national politics when he was
elected in the Saeima in 2006. However, he has some political
experience at regional level: he was a member of the Ventspils City
Council and also a board member of the regional party For Latvia and
Ventspils (LV), headed by Aivars Lembergs, Ventspils Mayor, who
currently is facing several serious criminal charges, including, for
large-scale corruption. Lack of political experience and Daudze's
close affiliation with the party headed by the person facing
criminal charges made the opposition parties, liberal media and
political experts question his suitability for the position, while
Daudze himself has stated that there are no ethical or legal
obstacles for him to take the position. He also claims not to have
any of the "envelope payments" that caused problems for President
Zatlers' candidacy.

5. Comment: Coalition loyalty triumphed over all else here. Daudze
is not nationally known, unlike Emsis and his predecessor Ingrida
Udre, and his selection indicates that Lembergs retains political
influence despite being under house arrest. A cabinet reshuffle was
already expected in the fall, so it is unclear whether the coalition
has agreed on larger changes than the minor realignment previously
discussed. Coalition sources say, in fact, the real deal was on the
budget for 2008 (to be approved in October), but there are widely
varying accounts about the terms of that agreement. We will
continue to watch developments in this area.

Bailey

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