Straujuma wins backing to stay on as PM

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Leaders of the three parties in Latvia's current ruling coalition said Tuesday they approved the idea of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma continuing in her role in the next government coalition, three days after voters gave the existing set-up approval at the polls.

After early morning discussions between Straujuma's centre-right Unity party plus coalition colleagues the right-wing National Alliance and populist Greens and Farmers Union, Straujuma emerged to tell reporters she had backing despite speculation in the aftermath of the election that she would likely be shunted aside to make way for a newcomer.

“If I will be entrusted with this responsibility, I will do it. But no-one can guarantee that they will rule for a full four year term and in any case the President has not nominated anyone yet, " Straujuma said.

It falls to Latvian President Andris Berzins to nominate a prime minister he feels is capable of forming a workable coalition. The day after the election he said he was giving parties a week to discuss alliances among themselves before naming his choice.

However, with at least five days of horse-trading still to go before parties make their cases before Berzins, there is still plenty of time for changes of heart and all-round chicanery.

Both the National Alliance and Greens and Farmers Union said they would also be talking to newly-elected parties the Regional Alliance and Latvia From the Heart to see if the coalition should be further broadened beyond the 61 seats they will control in the 100-seat parliament or Saeima.

The pro-Russia Harmony Party, which draws most of its support from Latvia's large Russian minority narrowly topped the polls but has never been in government in more than 20 years as ethnic Latvian parties invariably join forces to block it.

The first setting of the new Latvian parliament is due to sit on November 4 and Berzins has indicated he wants the first session to approve the appointment of a new cabinet, including the prime minister's position.

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