Levits: Government formation process could take a month

With all results in the 14th Saeima elections now in, talks start Monday on the ticklish process of putting a new government together.

President Egils Levits is holding talks with all parties at Rīga Castle on a one-by-one basis before nominating anyone to assemble a workable coalition but on Monday morning clearly signalled that current Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš was in the leading position after his New Unity party topped the polls. 

In an interview on Latvian Television's "Morning Panorama" program, Levits stated that his decision will depend on the negotiations with the representatives of all seven parties that entered the parliament. According to him, negotiations on the creation of a coalition will not be easy, because the parties have different visions. The president believes that one of the main issues will be the breadth of the coalition. 

Mathematically, it is possible to create a coalition from just three parties: New Unity,  the United List and the National Alliance. However, such a coalition would have a narrow majority with 54 seats in the 100 seat Saeima. Levits believes that a broader coalition would be better, including the Progressives party, though the left-leaning Progressives and the right-leaning National Alliance are ideologically at odds on several key issues, particularly with regard to social policies. 

"My position would be that the coalition should be workable, that it should be able to last for four years and that it should have a serious reform program where all parties work together and not try to bite each other," Levits said.

President Levits said he would name a prime ministerial candidate at the end of the negotiation process, not at the beginning.

Levits stated that there is a high probability of forming a new coalition within a month, however, he is not completely sure about it. He said that October is a working month to prepare the foundations for the new coalition. Thus, the new coalition could be ready in November. 

"You don't need to drag it out. Those parties that are capable of being in a coalition, they also understand this and will get to work," the president said.

He mentioned economic reforms, scientific development and social cohesion as three of the important issues on which he will expect clear commitments from parties.

The head of state said that he wants to see economic reforms and serious plans to transform the economy so that Latvia no longer lags behind Lithuania and Estonia, but is ahead of them. The president emphasized that everyone always talks about how important science and technology are, but he also wants to see a serious program to quickly develop these areas. It is also important to unite society around the Latvian language and culture in order to overcome the legacy of Soviet colonialism, he said.

FORMING A GOVERNMENT

Immediately after a Saeima election, another process entirely begins as the parties elected size each other up and think about who they are prepared to cooperative with and who they are not. This does not always coincide with their pre-election promises in this regard. 

It is up to the President to nominate someone to try to form a government. The President may choose whoever he or she thinks has the best chance of forming a viable administration, so it does not necessarily have to be the leader of the party that has won the most seats. 

The President will usually give a candidate a fairly brief fixed period of a few days or a week in which to assemble a potential government. If the nominee cannot do so, the President will try someone else. This can involve days and even weeks of horse-trading among the parties, during which time the previous administration retains executive power in an interim capacity.

When the parties have come to agreement by drawing up and signing a coalition agreement, government declaration and government action plan, as well as outlining the distribution of ministerial portfolios, the new government is put to vote by the Saeima. A majority is required and if the motion passes, the government is up and running.

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