Kozlovskis moves over to let Aboltina past

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The way appears to be clearing for Unity party chairwoman Solvita Aboltina to seize pole position in the race to become Latvia's next Prime Minister after her main rival, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis announced Wednesday he was putting the brakes on his own chances.

In an interview on Latvian Radio, Kozlovskis said that he would be happy to continue heading the Interior Ministry and carry on with work that has been started.

''I believe there should be a different candidate for prime minister instead of me. That is why I call on everyone not to mention by name any more as a possible candidate,'' Kozlovskis emphasized.

Kozlovskis had been considered the front-runner for the PM's job after the incumbent Laimdota Straujuma said she thought he would be the strongest candidate.

Unless another candidate from the Unity party, which leads the acting three-party coalition, is prepared to come forward, party chairwoman Solvita Aboltina would appear to have a clear run to the checkered flag.

If she did win President Raimonds Vejonis' nomination to form a government it would be a remarkable turnaround for the controversial politician.

She failed to be elected to Saeima during parliamentary elections last year after she received a huge number of 'negative' votes from her own party's voters (Latvian voters have the chance to express particular like or dislike for candidates on ballot papers) but amid farcical scenes that appeared to hold the will of voters in contempt, she was given a 'soft' mandate when an elected Unity member of parliament, Janis Junkers, performed a remarkable U-turn and announced his resignation just seconds after swearing himself in.

Aboltina picked up the seat, having prepared an application in advance, strongly suggestive of a put-up job.

Even before the election, while serving as parliamentary speaker, Aboltina was roundly criticized by the public for the high-handed manner in which her official motorcade bossed other road users at high speed even when not on particularly urgent business.

More recently she caused further offense by jeering at pensioners in the street outside parliament and her bad luck on the roads continued when she caused a road traffic accident. Speaking of the incident, she claimed stress had bee a contributing factor and the crash would not have been a big deal if the car she hit had not belonged to a foreigner.

Her frequent statements in recent weeks undermining Straujuma are believed to have contributed to the latter's decision to park her premiership.

However, despite her miniscule level of public support, Aboltina's sheer staying power and drive have kept her ahead of the field. She also enjoys solid backing from at least part of the Unity party.

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