Cablegate: Kalvitis in Trouble: Protests and Few Friends

DE RUEHRA #0778/01 2911450
O 181450Z OCT 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Kalvitis in trouble: protests and few friends

Ref: RIGA 771 and previous

1. Summary: Approximately 3000 people participated in a peaceful,

public protest in front of the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) to
express their opposition to the current government of Prime Minister
Aigars Kalvitis and the threatened dismissal of Latvia's
anti-corruption chief, Aleksejs Loskutovs. The Saeima, expected by
some to decide October 18 whether to dismiss Loskutovs, delayed
consideration of the vote to allow a thorough investigation of the
charges against him. This comes on the heels of the rejection by a
member of a coalition party of the post of economics minister,
following allegations of a deal to trade the ministerial post for
the party's votes against Loskutovs. Weak coalition support for
Kalvitis in public forums, coupled with allegations of inappropriate
pressure on Saeima members to ensure the dismissal of Loskutovs
leaves the Kalvitis government in a precarious state. Kalvitis has
already vowed to step down if Loskutovs is not dismissed. FM Pabriks
has publicly broken with the PM over the Loskutovs dismissal and
Kalvitis is hurrying back from the EU council in Lisbon to deal with
the situation. Latvian President Valdis Zatlers expressed his hope
that parliamentarians would listen to the voice of the people when
making their decision. End summary.

2. Following the cabinet's October 16 dismissal of anti-corruption
agency (KNAB) chief Loskutovs (reftel), between 3000 and 5000 people
gathered outside the Saiema in the rain October 18, it what is being
called the largest march since the restoration of independence.
Diena, a major daily newspaper, called for the demonstration to
protest against the situation in Latvia and request Kalvitis'
resignation. Many leading members of the media and intelligentsia,
along with some influential business leaders joined in the call.
The crowd demanded dissolution of the parliament, trial of People's
Party founder and former PM Andris Skele, and included shouts of
"Hands Off Loskutovs." Among the protesters were representatives of
public organizations, public figures and actors. Organizers of the
rally said that the government, in trying to oust Loskutovs, had

4. Kalvitis continued to stress that the decision to sack Loskutovs
was taken on the merits, but found few backers. On October 17,
Einars Cilinskis, candidate of coalition partner For Fatherland and
Freedom (TB/LNNK), rejected the post after rumors circulated that he
received it only after TB/LNNK agreed to support the dismissal of
Loskutovs in the parliament. Additionally, coalition Visvaldis
Lacis (noted for his lack of party discipline) complained to the
Prosecutor's Office that his party leader informed him two weeks
ago, while investigations were still ongiong, that there would be a
parliamentary vote to dismiss Loskutovs and independent action by
Lacis would not be tolerated. On a weekly news program October 17,
Latvia's most influential, coalition ministers said that they voted
for the dismissal only because they were on Kalvitis' team and they
felt they had no choice. They stressed that their vote was only to
send the decision to parliament and indicated at least some
willingness to see Loskutovs continue in the job. On the same show,
over 12,000 of the 13,000 viewers who called in to a poll, said they
viewed the cabinet decision as "illegal and undemocratic."

5. In addition to the protests, October 18 brought divisions even
within the PM's own party. Regional Development minister
Stokenbergs, already critical of the party for some time, said that
if he had been in the cabinet meeting (he was at a meeting in
Spain), he would have opposed the decision to recommend Loskutovs'
dismissal to Saeima. FM Pabriks, who had weakly defended the PM on
tv the night before, now announced that he would appeal to the PM
and members of their party to reverse the decision. Pabriks said he
had "heard the voice of the people."

6. With the coalition unsure that it could achieve a majority in
what would be a secret ballot, the Saeima decided to delay
consideration of the dismissal of Loskutovs, saying further
investigation is needed. The chair of the committee that will
investigate this said that they would need "several weeks" to
examine the matter fully.

7. President Zatlers urged the Saeima to "correct the mistakes" that
had been made in the Loskutovs matter. He also welcomed the protest
as appropriate actions in a democracy and expressed his hope that
the governmet would heed the people's message. However, he warned
that protests can only derive short-term results, and that,
"Responsible participation of each Latvian the only way
to achieve positive long-term changes."

6. Kalvitis has stated that he has no plans to step down now, but is
ready to resign if the Saeima does not vote to remove Loskutovs.
"It's hard, but I am strong," stated Kalvitis. As a result of
developments, he has canceled his participation in the informal EU
council meeting in Lisbon and is returning to Latvia to deal with
the situation here.

7. Comment: Fed up with what they perceive as a climate of
corruption and frustrated by a worsening economic challenges, the
people of Latvia are sending a strong message to the current
government; the suspension of Loskutovs was neither legitimate nor

RIGA 00000778 002 OF 002

democratic. With the government under fire and Kalvitis cancelling
international trips to attempt damage control we can expect
significant political turbulence in coming days. A number of
factors mean that the four parties currently in coalition have a
strong interest in staying together in government, even if they make
significant changes to the cabinet. But with several of the
parties, including the largest People's Party, having internal
divisions, there are a multitude of possibilities. The coming days
and possibly weeks will be very interesting in Latvian politics.


© Scoop Media

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