No nomination for Latvian PM post likely until next week

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A meeting between five political parties and President Raimonds Vējonis appeared to have failed to produce an immediate nomination for the post of prime minister December 4.

Vējonis will meet with potential nominee Krišjānis Kariņš (above) of the New Unity party on December 7, reported LTV, after which his nomination may be forthcoming. Kariņš did not participate in the talks on Friday.

State President Raimonds Vējonis will meet Krišjānis Kariņš, the candidate for the post of Prime Minister of the Party of New Unity, at 11.00 am on Monday, January 7, 2018 at the Riga Castle.

"During the [Monday] meeting, the President expects K. Kariņš to inform him about the priorities of the future government and the work to be done, as well as to divide the planned responsibilities of the government," a subsequent statement from the president's office said, offering a clear hint that, should he be satisfied with the information provided, a nomination is likely.

Vējonis added that he "welcomes the ability of the parties elected to the 13th Saeima to find the necessary compromises and to agree on joint work in government."

Later on Friday afternoon, Kariņš himself held a press conference at which he said five parties were in principle ready to join  a coalition under his leadership: his own New Unity, the New Conservatives, Development/For!, the National Alliance and KPV LV. 

He confirmed that he had been invited to Rīga Castle at 11 a.m. on Monday and intended to present "a government model, showing how the five parties will make up the coalition" and "what will be my main priorities."

"If I receive the president's nomination then without delay we will start work on the government's declaration and if we get the government declaration as well we can work on the coalition agreement," he said, estimating that formation of the government could take two weeks from the date of nomination.

Installation of the government is subject to an approval vote in Saeima.

Kariņš, born in 1964, is currently serving as an MEP. He was born in the United States and moved to Latvia in the mid-1990s. He served as Economics Minister 2002-2004 and became an MEP in 2009.

Formerly the dominant force in recent government coalitions, New Unity saw its parliamentary representation reduced by two thirds in October's election and it is now the smallest party in Saeima. With the rest of the Saeima seats distributed between six other parties, most with fairly similar numbers of seats, Kariņš may hope to take the role of honest broker between the competing interests.

Nevertheless, the possibility of winding up with a potential prime minister from the smallest party in Saeima, after more than three months of negotiations about finding an acceptable candidate, does underline the fragmented nature of politics in the country at present. It is now the longest government formation process since the restoration of Latvian independence.

The first nominee following October 6 elections was Jānis Bordāns of the New Conservative party. Despite initial optimism, his attempt to form a coalition foundered as party rivalries surfaced in subsequent talks.

Second up to bat was Aldis Gobzems of the KPV LV party. His candidacy was highly controversial and a series of bizarre events led to him proposing a government made up of unelected "experts" under him whom he never named but repeatedly assured would be "the best of the best". Unsurprisingly, the other parties did not respond well to his off-the-wall antics and his candidacy was withdrawn by the president, who attracted considerable criticism for nominating him in the first place.

Despite the protracted nature of the talks, President Vējonis has said several times there is no political crisis and talks of fresh elections are premature. In an LTV interview January 3 he hinted that if a third nominee proves unable to assemble a government, he may look to a candidate without party affiliation, though he mentioned no names.

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