ZRP, Unity to Form Coalition with National Alliance

Courtesy of the Latvian Institute (October 10, 2011)

Latvia’s centrist Zatlers Reform Party (ZRP) and the center-right Unity bloc on Monday, October 10, decided to form the government coalition with the National Alliance, thus leaving the leftist pro-Russia Harmony Center and the Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) in the opposition, the Baltic News Service reported.

According to the R?ga-based newswire, both parties will call on Latvian President Andris B?rzi?š to name incumbent Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis as the candidate prime minister for the future government.

Dombrovskis informed on the decision after a late meeting of the political parties on Monday.

Representatives of the three parties signed an agreement on reforms and formation of the rule-of-law government, BNS reported.

BNS also reported that the coalition of Unity, ZRP, and the National Alliance will have 56 votes at the 100-seat parliament.

ZRP leader Valdis Zatlers was quoted as saying that an agreement has been reached that allows to implement the reforms planned by ZRP regarding education, uniting society, and the rule of law, to reduce the impact of money on politics.

Dombrovskis was quoted as saying that all political parties elected to the parliament will be involved in the work of the parliament, also those who have been left in the opposition, but particular positions have not been discussed yet.

“We have not discussed distribution of positions yet – either ministerial posts or positions at the parliament,” Dombrovskis was quoted as saying, adding that these talks will follow.

National Alliance’s co-chairman Raivis Dzintars was quoted as saying that the opinions of the National Alliance and the other two coalition partners differ on some issues, including on definition of the occupation and easing citizenship procedures for children of non-citizens born in Latvia.

“Nevertheless, one of the achievements is that the joint document includes a chapter on strengthening the Latvian language in all aspects,” Dzintars was quoted as saying.

According to BNS, Dombrovskis confirmed that the new coalition will continue work to complete the international loan program at the end of the year and adopt the euro in 2014.

The agreement signed by the parties promises to implement equal partnership in implementing reforms under the lead of prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis, BNS reported, and his task will be to set up a “professional reform team.”

The coalition agreement will provide that “no decision in the coalition of the government may be out-voted by majority of votes against ZRP.”

The document also said that the reform plans prepared by ZRP in the education system, starting from pre-schools up to life-long education, including a higher education financing model available for everyone, will be implemented. The National Alliance has also added to this chapter that it supports such financing model, but at the same time it supports financing from the state budget as well.

According to BNS, the document also promises to implement ZRP’s modern industrial policy, new employment policy under the lead of the Economics Ministry, significantly reduce labor force taxes under the lead of the Economics and Finance Ministries.

The parties have shown support to the popularly elected president and adopt the necessary legislative amendments, BNS reported. Other reforms “promoting development of Latvia as a national, rule-of-law and competitive country” have also been planned.

The chapter about reducing the role of money in politics says that “we will not limit ourselves to fighting the impact of the oligarchs in the parliament or the government. It requires systematic and structural changes that would prevent influence of illegal groups in any composition of the government.”

The documents underscores that state-owned companies may not be the instruments of the parties represented by particular ministers.

According to BNS, the chapter about uniting the society of Latvia says that none of Latvia’s ethnic or social groups is either legally or morally responsible for the Soviet occupation in Latvia and its consequences. However, the National Alliance has added a remark that even though none of Latvia’s ethnic or social groups are responsible about the occupation, there still might be people among Latvian residents whose responsibility about consequences of the occupation cannot be denied.

“We are aware that consequences of the historical events can be overcome only denouncing the crimes of the totalitarian regimes and developing Latvia as a strong and national country, following the rule of law with united, inclusive civic society,” said the agreement.

The status of the Latvian language will be strengthened as the status of the only official language, at the same time each resident will be ensured a possibility to preserve his native culture, language.

“The status of non-citizens will not be revised, their rights will not be restricted, while quality naturalization and eased citizenship procedures will be ensured for children of non-citizens,” said the document. However, the remark of the National Alliance said that the National Alliance understands this chapter as liquidation of formal obstacles, but rejects the idea about automatic citizenship.

According to BNS, the parties in the document agreed to implement strict policy against any signs of discrimination.

The parties also decided to entrust heading of important parliament committees to representatives of the opposition, thus reducing risks of destructive opposition.

The chapter on Latvia’s foreign policy confirms continuity of the present foreign policy, international reputation, and progress in relations with strategic partners and neighboring countries. Latvia, “being an active NATO and European Union (EU) member, will continue relations with Russia in a good atmosphere, ensured by ex-president Valdis Zatlers in his former position.”

BNS reported that talks of the political parties lasted for more than five hours on Monday.

The R?ga-based newswire also reported that the parties finally made a decision on the would-be government coalition after three-week long discussions following the snap parliament elections held in Latvia on Sept. 17. Initially, ZRP and the Unity agreed to form the core of the coalition, but ZRP made a unilateral decision to invite the Harmony Center to the coalition, while the Unity believed that the National Alliance would be the best partner.

According to BNS, Dombrovskis proposed an alternative model with ZRP and the Unity forming the coalition, while cooperation agreements would be signed with the National Alliance and the Harmony Center, and each of the parties would delegate its ministers to the government. However, BNS reported that this model failed last week, and the Unity and ZRP returned to talks about a three-member coalition.