Gaidis Bērziņš back as Justice Minister

Saeima at its extraordinary plenary session Thursday approved Gaidis Bērziņš to assume the Justice Minister’s seat vacated last month by Baiba Broka, who stepped down after being denied national security clearance by the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB).

Altogether 55 MPs voted in favor of approving Bērziņš, with Harmony Center deputies voting against his approval, citing ample previous opportunities he has had to further reforms in the judicial sector.

Bērziņš, who until now has been serving as the Justice Ministry’s parliamentary secretary, had previously led the ministry in three separate coalition governments as a representative of the right-wing All for Latvia/For Fatherland and Freedom party, which comprises the base of the National Alliance parliamentary faction and electoral list.

Bērziņš has served as Minister of Justice under three governments previously – first in Aigars Kalvītis’ cabinet from 7 November 2006 until 20 December 2007; then continuing on in Ivars Godmanis’ cabinet until 12 March 2009.

He became Justice Minister again on 25 November 2011, but unexpectedly resigned on 20 June 2012 from Valdis Dombrovskis’ cabinet, ostensibly over differences of opinion regarding restitution payments to Jewish property owners who had their real estate exproriated during Latvia's Nazi occupation.

Under Latvia's perpetual succession of coalition governments, political parties generally "claim" different ministries and nominate a replacement whenever one of their number steps down for whatever reason.

Named on August 11 as the nominee for taking over the ministry in the remaining two months before elections, Bērziņš said that if approved, he would focus on finishing the Law on Arbitration Courts, amendments to the Bankruptcy Law, and Electronic Auctions Law to avert corporate raiding, as well as the creation of a list of delinquent non-payers of maintenance payments.

As reported on July 28, Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers did not overrule a decision by Latvia's intelligence service, the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB), that Baiba Broka could not be given security clearance to deal with classified material, despite the very obvious need for such clearance given her job as Justice Minister.

Broka's lack of security clearance – for reasons which have never been clearly specified but which SAB chief Janis Maizitis has described as “very serious” – had been an issue ever since she took office on January 22.

As a member of parliament with the nationalist National Alliance bloc, which prides itself on a tough law-and-order stance, Broka's situation had been politically embarrassing as well as frequently absurd with the Justice Minister having to leave meetings at which her ministerial colleagues discuss classified material.

Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde has been serving as acting Justice minister since Broka’s resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma.

The NA tweeted Monday that Broka intends to resume her seat in Riga City Council as well as on the board of state aviation and air traffic control board Latvijas gaisa satiksme.

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Politics
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