Latvia reshuffles government, looks to economic growth

Riga, Jun 2 (EFE).- Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins on Wednesday announced a major cabinet reshuffle, narrowing the ruling coalition to four instead of five political parties and replacing four ministers, including three from the populist Who Owns The State (KPV) party, which is being dropped out of the coalition.

Karins of the centrist-liberal New Unity (JV) party said he was replacing Minister of Interior Sandis Girgens (KPV) with Marija Golubeva of the For Development/For (APar) party alliance and nominating Gatis Eglitis of the New Conservative Party (JKP) as Minister of Welfare and returning Janis Vitenbergs of the center-right National Alliance (NA) as Minister of Economics.

The Minister of Education and Science, Ilze Suplinska (JKP), is being replaced by Anita Muizniece, another JKP member.

The government realignment, which was not expected until after the June 5 local government elections, will make Golubeva, currently a member of parliament, or Saeima, the second openly gay person in the Latvian government in addition to Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (JV).

Political analysts say the reshuffle was inevitable after the KPV, which gained 16 seats in the 100 seat Saeima in the 2018 elections, saw scandals and internal splits reduce the party to five members, with most defectors declaring themselves independent except for Vitenbergs, who joined the NA and was then dismissed as Minister of Economics.

Karins said he would meet with the new ministerial candidates and parliamentarians Wednesday afternoon ahead of a parliamentary vote on the new ministers on Thursday.

“The main work of the government will be to continue our exit from the pandemic and to ensure stable and predictable economic growth,” the Prime Minister said, affirming that his economic policy was to shift Latvia’s economy away from the transit of goods and financial flows to what he called “smart re-industrialization with exporting companies that offer well-paid jobs.”

Official figures showed the Latvian economy shrank by 1.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a year earlier, mainly due to drops in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

Karins announced the government reshuffle at a joint press conference with Latvia’s President Egils Levits, who expressed confidence in the realigned government and said he expected it to last until the next regular Saeima elections in the fall of 2022.

In the Latvian political system, the President names a prime ministerial candidate to form a government after an election or if a government collapses.

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