By the Associated Press
January 22, 2014
Latvia welcomed its first female prime minister Wednesday after lawmakers approved a new center-right coalition.
Sixty-four votes were cast in favor of Laimdota Straujuma’s coalition, while 27 were against and the remaining nine lawmakers either abstained or were absent.
Previously a high-ranking civil servant specializing in agriculture, Straujuma was unknown to the Latvian public until she became a compromise figure earlier this month during coalition talks.
President Andris Berzins had previously rejected all parties’ prime minister candidates before the ruling center-right party Unity decided to propose Straujuma, 62.
She joined Unity to take the post, but it is unclear whether she will attempt to keep her position after Latvia holds parliamentary elections in October.
The previous government of Valdis Dombrovskis, who was the longest-serving prime minister in the Baltic state’s history, resigned in November after a supermarket roof collapse killed 54 people and stunned the country.
Observers say one of Straujuma’s core tasks will be to ensure a timely and complete investigation into the tragedy given that most Latvians are skeptical that the guilty parties will be bear criminal responsibility.
Latvia, a country of 2 million people, has the fastest-growing economy in the 28-member European Union. On Jan. 1, the country became the 18th member of the euro area.