New Unity loses one of its Saeima seats

The Saeima faction of the Jaunā Vienotība (New Unity) party has seen its strength reduced amid internal strife, according to a report from Latvian Television.

LTV reports that New Unity – the party of Prime Minister Evika Siliņa – has suspended Saeima deputy Andrejs Ceļapīters from its ranks, reducing its strength from 26 to 25 votes. 

Unofficial information shows that the reason for the disagreement is related to the MP's objections to increasing the value-added tax on fruits and vegetables from 5% to 12%, as foreseen by the government in the next year's budget. As a result, Ceļapīters did not take part in a high-profile vote a couple of weeks ago on the transfer of the bill on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention to the commissions.

New Unity faction member Edmunds Jurēvics confirmed that the party's and Ceļapīters' understanding of party principles were "significantly different."

On Wednesday, November 22, the faction decided that Ceļapīters will in future work in the Saeima as a non-aligned MP. "I really hope that [Ceļapīters] will make national decisions on important issues related to the state budget," Jurēvics said.

Ceļapīters is a first-time MP, only elected a year ago. His casting-out places a few extra grams of strain on the current coalition's slim majority. There are 100 Saeima deputies in all. New Unity, plus its partners the Progressives and the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) until now directly controlled 52 votes, with one more coming via an agreement with independent MP Oļegs Burovs.

Now the coalition controls only 51, plus Burovs' vote. In such circumstances, independent MPs – who are often something of a parliamentary side note – can wield considerable influence during tight votes, and it will be interesting to see whether Ceļapīters makes overtures to other parties – or vice versa.  

Meanwhile in an unrelated case, another independent MP – Glorija Grevcova – on November 21 failed in her appeal against a sentence of 160 hours of community service for lying about her biography in submissions to the Central Election Commission. A ruling of the Riga Regional Court left the verdict of the first-instance court unchanged.


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