With some members of parliament becoming ministers and others entering the opposition, extensive reshuffles are expected this week.
Latvian Television (LTV) reported September 18 on the rumors circulating in the corridoes of the Saeima on who is likely to be doing what as a result of the changes.
The most obvious change is the expected promotion of Gūnars Kūtris (ZZS) to the post of parliamentary speaker at the expense of Edvards Smiltēns (United List), who has held the position only since last November.
Monday's meeting of the Presidium of the Saeima was one of the last that took place under Smiltēns' leadership. Some members of the coalition are urging Smiltēns to be removed from office at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday.
Smiltēns commented: "I understand it as a reality. If we couldn't prevent it [the change of coalition], then we won't participate there, I see it as an act of treason."
The new coalition parties have agreed to approve Kūtris as speaker of the parliament. He already had experience on the Presidium of the Saeima during the 12th Saeima, and he also once headed the Constitutional Court. However, he is also quite a divisive figure who was formerly part of the now-defunct No Sirds Latvijai (Latvia from the Heart) party. Recent discussions about him potentially becoming Minister for Culture generated a very negative response from the arts community and the idea was quickly shelved.
Kūtris commented: "I have had a good career as a lawyer. I am not afraid to lead the institution. The most important thing is how to gather together 100 independent deputies," which is indeed the most basic function of the Saeima.
Speaking to Latvian Radio September 18, Kūtris said he paused for thought when his name was suggested as speaker. "I struggled a bit, but in the end my colleagues persuaded me. I agreed, realizing what I have to do in this job. If you go into politics, you must be ready to fill positions," he said.
"I have experience in the work of the presidium and the work of managing an institution," explained Kūtris. "If the party asks... In this case, after a lot of thinking, I understood - ok, I'm ready."
Changes are also expected among other members of the Presidium. It is planned that Antoņina Ņeņaševa (Progressives) will become deputy speaker. The current deputy speaker, Jānis Grasbergs (National Alliance), will become deputy secretary. The position of the secretary of the Saeima, which is currently held by the new Minister of Agriculture Armands Krauze (ZZS), is expected to be entrusted to a member of the United List party yet to be decided.
Not all committee heads will change
Changes are also expected in the leadership of Saeima committees, but not all of them will be changing. MPs have reached agreement that three commissions will continue to be headed by MPs who now find themselves in opposition. Namely, Rihards Kols (National Alliance) will head the Foreign Affairs Committee, Uģis Mitrevics (National alliance) will head the Sustainable Development Committee, and Raimonds Bergmanis (United List) will head the Defense and Internal Affairs Committee.
Elsewhere it is planned to approve new chairs of a series of commissions. Namely, the National Security Committee is planned to be transferred to the control of Ainars Latkovskis (New Unity), and the Requests Committee is to be under the leadership of Raimonds Čudars (New Unity).
It is planned to entrust the Social and Labor Affairs Committee to Andris Bērziņš (ZZS), the National Economy Committee is likely to be headed by Skaidrīte Ābrama (Progressives), the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee by Laila Rasima (Progressives), and the European Affairs Committee by Edmunds Cepurītis (Progressives).
New faces, old faces
When a Saeima deputy becomes a minister in Latvia, it is common practice for another member of their party to take up their parliamentary mandate on a temporary basis so that they can concentrate on their ministerial work and not have to spend long hours in parliament to participate in votes, away from their ministerial responsibilities.
This week, it is planned to approve stand-in mandates for three deputies from New Unity – former Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, Alina Gendele and Viktorija Baire. From the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) –there will be stand-in madates for Ligita Gintere, Valdis Maslovskis, Ģirts Štekerhofs and Didzis Zemmers. For the Progressives the new faces will be Ervins Labanovskis and Mairita Lūse.
Conversely, the change of government means that several politicians who were ministers will now return to take up their mandates as a regular Saeima deputy, which means their temporary replacements will now head for the exit.
After months of wrangling, on September 15, the Saeima approved the new Cabinet of Ministers formed by three parties – New Unity, the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) and the Progressives. It replaces the previous administration formed by New Unity, the National Alliance and the United List.