Economy minister stands down in attempt to rescue Unity party

Economics Minister Arvils Ašeradens confirmed October 11 he intends to leave his current position in order to concentrate on trying to revive the fortunes of the Vienotiba (Unity) party of which he is leader.

The move was confirmed in a post on the Vienotiba website, which quotes Ašeradens as saying:

"By taking up the position of the leader of the party, I have begun the process of change in Vienotiba, and stable work of the Saeima faction is a very important element of that change... My decision is to renew my mandate as a Saeima deputy and to assume the responsibilities of the faction leader.

He also confirmed the move via Twitter.

The current Saeima faction leader for Vienotiba is Solvita Aboltina, a politician deeply unpopular with the electorate, filling in after the recent resignation of Edvards Smiltens, another former leadership candidate.

Aboltina has on several occasions floated the idea of leaving parliament (she was parachuted in under extremely murky circumstances after being rejected by voters) in order to take up employment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, though it is not clear precisely what position her party colleague, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, plans to prepare for her, if any. 

It was Aboltina's undermining of then-Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma that started the rot in Vienotiba two years ago, when it was riding high in the polls. The situation steadily worsened due to in-fighting among party ranks with "unity" notable only for its absence.

When Straujuma resigned in December 2015, the situation within the party was so chaotic it was not even able to supply a new Prime Ministerial candidate in good time, leading to President Raimonds Vejonis offering the vacancy to current incumbent Maris Kucinskis of the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) instead.

A stint as party leader by former European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs made no difference, possibly because he wasn't even in the Saeima or indeed any official elected position.

In recent months several of the party's MPs have left its ranks, with half a dozen opting to join a newly formed "Movement For!" party.

Aseradens will continue as Economics Minister until a replacement is found from within Vienotiba's ranks, though with less than a year until the next parliamentary elections are due, the replacement will most likely go into a holding pattern for the next 12 months.

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