Latvia is a country located in the region of Northern Europe. After the October 2018 parliamentary elections, it took longer than ever before the formation of the government. In the end, however, Krišjānis Kariņš from Parliament’s smallest party New Unity was able to form yet another coalition between the center-right parties. Since Latvia became free after the fall of the Soviet Union, it has been ruled by right-wing governments. The Social Democratic and Russian-friendly party Harmony was again held out of government.
Valdis Dombrovskis announced in November 2013 that he would step down. Then he had led the government since 2009 – the longest period for a prime minister in Latvia. Dombrovskis felt that the country needed a new government with a stable majority, which could meet the challenges after the roof of a supermarket in Riga earlier that month collapsed and killed 54 people. It was the worst disaster in independent Latvia.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Latvia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
In January 2014, Latvia joined the euro. In the same month, a new right-wing coalition took over the government under the leadership of former Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma, who became the country’s first female prime minister. The broad government included four of Parliament’s five parties, in addition to her own party Unit also the Reform Party, the National Alliance and the former opposition party ZZS.
As relations with Russia became strained in 2014 (see Foreign Policy and Defense), the threat from the neighboring country was perceived as greater. It characterized politics and cast its shadow over the parliamentary elections held in October 2014.
The ethnic Latvians again joined the parties that worked together to keep the Russian-friendly Harmony party away from government power. All the government parties went ahead in the election, although this time the Reform Party did not stand under its own name but on a joint list of Unity (Reform Party dissolved in spring 2015).
Harmony backed strongly but still got the most mandate in the election with a single mandate margin. Despite this, the party was held back outside the new government formed with the same parties and largely the same ministers as the former – again under Straujuma’s leadership.
Debate on refugee policy
In Latvia, too, the escalating refugee crisis in the EU during the second half of 2015 led to an extensive political debate. In the summer of 2015, the government agreed to welcome 250 refugees who have come to the EU. But when the European Commission demanded that the country receive an additional 500 people over a two-year period, disagreements in the government arose. Raimonds Vējonis from ZZS, elected new president that summer, played an important role when the government finally agreed to meet the European Commission. But three ministers from the ZZS and immigration-critical National Alliance voted no in a government vote. When the proposal was passed to Parliament’s European Committee, it was approved by a marginal margin. Hundreds of Latvians protested against the refugee reception.
The co-operation difficulties of the government, as well as internal fragmentation within the largest Unity government party, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Straujuma at the end of the year. Now ZZS was allowed to lead the government with Māris Kučinskis as new prime minister. In his government, ministerial posts also went to Unity and the National Alliance.
The 2018 election
In the parliamentary elections on October 6, 2018, Harmony again became the largest party with close to one-fifth of the vote (23 seats). The populist party KPV LV came in second place with just over 14 percent of the vote and 16 seats. The New Conservative Party also received 16 seats. Although the government parties succeeded in getting the economy back on their feet after the problems after the financial crisis, they were far behind in the electorate. It was clear that it would be difficult to form a new government because of the fragmented parliament.
Only after more than three months was a new five-party government finally formed. In addition to Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s own party group New unit also included New Conservative Party, National Alliance, For Development / For and parts of KPV LV. However, five members of KPV LV voted against the new government, which was supported by 61 members in Parliament.
The Kariņš government has promised to strive for Latvia to be more clearly integrated into EU and NATO cooperation. Important goals are to improve the country’s financial system and strengthen the legal security in the country, among other things, money laundering needs to be combated further. A priority area is also to try to overcome the income gaps in the country.
FACTS – POLITICS
Latvijas Republika / Latvia
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Egils Levits (2019-)
Head of government
Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (2019-)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Harmony 23, KPV LV 16, New Conservative Party 16, For Development / For 13, National Alliance 13, The League of Green and Peasants 11, New Unit 8 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Harmonic Center 24, Unit 23, Confederation of Greens and Peasants 21, National Alliance 17, Confederation of Latvian Regions 8, For Latvia from the Heart 7 (2014)
54% in the 2018 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2022, Parliament elects president 2023,
The Prime Minister resigns
Aigars Kalvītis leaves his post after harsh criticism in the Loskutovs affair (see September 2007). New head of government becomes Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis.
Decides that he may return as head of the Anti-Corruption Agency;
So the protests are called after Loskutov’s dismissal. Thousands of protesters protest outside Parliament.
The head of the Anti-Corruption Agency is dismissed
The decision to kick Aleksejs Loskutovs comes from Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis.
Parliament President Indulis Emsis resigns following a corruption scandal.
President is appointed
Parliament elects Valdis Zatlers as new president.
Boundary agreement clear
Latvia and Russia sign the final agreement.