Latvian Parliament Approves New Prime Minister

Latvian Parliament Approves New PM

.c The Associated Press

RIGA, Latvia (AP) – Parliament approved a Green Party leader Tuesday as Latvia’s new prime minister, tasked with heading a shaky coalition government as the country joins the European Union in May.

Indulis Emsis’ three-party center-right coalition won approval only after securing the support of several left-wing deputies and persuading others to refrain from voting.

Lawmakers voted 56-33 to approve the coalition, which includes Emsis’ Greens and Farmers Union, the People’s Party and Latvia’s First. Eleven lawmakers abstained.

The coalition needed a simple majority in the 100-seat Saeima, or parliament.

The coalition, which assumes power immediately, lacks the legislative majority it may need to govern – or to last.

While it drew 56 votes, the left-wing deputies who gave it that majority are not part of the government and not committed to supporting it on any policy issue.

It is the 11th government since Latvia regained independence after the 1991 Soviet collapse. The country’s parliaments have tended to be badly fragmented, leading to unstable coalitions.

But all Latvian governments, including the newest one, have broadly agreed on fundamental reforms. And all have backed EU and NATO membership.

Emsis, 52, is Europe’s first Green Party prime minister, though he is considered to be far more conservative than most European Greens. Economic, not environmental, issues are expected to top his agenda, though he pledged after the vote to stay true to his Green roots.

“I will always remain green, no matter what you say,” Emsis said. “Being confirmed as prime minister is a wave that has brought me higher than I had planned to go.”

He was nominated last month by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga with the hope he could form a government before the Baltic country joins the EU on May 1.

He replaces Einars Repse, who resigned in early February after the Latvia’s First party withdrew from his center-right coalition, leaving him without a legislative majority. Throughout his rule, Repse clashed with his coalition partners, who accused him of being heavy-handed.

Emsis promised to include his coalition partners in important decisions.

“Only in different opinions is the truth born,” he said. “I will keep my eyes and my ears open.”