Five MPs leave Unity party

Ints Dalderis, Ilze Vinkele, Lolita Cigane, Andrejs Judins and Aleksejs Loskutovs on July 17 wrote applications to terminate their membership in Unity, the party’s secretary general Artis Kampars told LETA.

The five Saeima members, however, will continue to work in the Unity faction in parliament, Vinkele told LETA, with several of these lawmakers confirming this intention. Today, the departing Unity members met with Solvita Aboltina who chairs the Unity faction in Saeima. She said that the faction consists of politicians elected to Saeima from a single list and that at present there are no major disagreements on the issues on the faction’s agenda.

The Unity board has also recommended the faction working together, with Aboltina also supporting this position. Discussions in the faction are possible, but Aboltina said that the lawmakers are likely to continue their work as team to ensure stability and attaining the government’s goals.

Judins told LETA that these MPs will continue to work constructively and support the government. He said that work is under way to create a new political party, but declined to name the people involved in this work.

Cigane said that there is demand in Latvia’s political spectrum for a centrist party with a clear pro-European program. The plan is to establish the new political party by the end of the summer, Cigane said, adding that everyone is welcome to take part in the political process.

The would-be party has an active core, Cigane said, but did not reveal any names, saying that she had not asked these people permission to disclose this information.

The above MPs have frequently expressed dissenting views that have differed from the position of the party’s leadership, particularly in the government-forming process when Vinkele was criticized for blocking the appointment of Latvia’s next prime minister.

The group of Unity dissenters then also included MP Veiko Spolitis who has since left the party but still works in the Unity faction in Saeima.

Asked why Spolitis is no longer mentioned as their ally, Dalderis said that “nothing has happened” and they just had differing opinions on some issue. Other politicians unofficially assume, however, that this might be due to Spolitis’ unsuccessful performance as the chairman of a parliamentary corruption investigation commission. 

In order to be eligible to partake in the next parliamentary election, scheduled for fall 2018, the MPs would have to register the new party by this September. 

Unity holds 23 seats in the 100-seat Latvian parliament. 

As reported, the party's leader, Andris Piebalgs, a former European Commissioner, is planning to resign as he had not been able to bring about radical changes needed in the party. He has named his deputy Edvards Smiltēns as a potential successor.

Ever since the resignation of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma in late 2015, Unity has been anything but unified. Its dithering over naming a candidate to succeed Straujuma saw Maris Kucinskis of the Green and Farmers Union become prime minister instead and the party's poll ratings have plummeted.

Yet just a year before, Unity was riding high after successfully helping to oversee Latvia's six-month presidency of the European Union.

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