Unity chooses a new leader

The Unity (Vienotiba) political party, one of three in the current Latvian ruling coalition, on Saturday chose a new leader.

Former European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs emerged victorious from an extraordinary congress, defeating Edvards Smiltens in a head-to-head race.

Piebalgs replaces Solvita Aboltina as party leader.

Ever since the resignation of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma late last year, Unity has been anything but unified. Its dithering over naming a candidate to succeed Straujuma saw Maris Kucinskis of the Green and Farmers Union become prime minister instead and the party's poll ratings have plummeted.

Yet just a year ago Unity was riding high after successfully helping to oversee Latvia's six-month presidency of the European Union.

Piebalgs will now face a stiff task to restore the party's popularity and credibility with voters before the next scheduled elections in fall 2018.

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