The National Conciliation Bloc, a coalition of left-of-center and left-wing parties, yesterday issued a strongly-worded statement asking to be entrusted with forming the government. The leftist bloc holds 53 of the parliament’s 100 seats, and includes a strong party led by a German citizen of Latvian origin classified as "extreme rightist" in Germany. These parties favor in varying degrees a slowdown of market reforms, deficit-financed social programs and trade protectionism, accelerated naturalization of Soviet-era settlers, and greater reliance on the Russian market. They support Latvia’s accession to the EU (although their policies are incompatible with that) but not to NATO. The rightist National Bloc alliance and right-of-center Latvia’s Way party, which had a clear majority between them in the previous parliament, now command only 47 seats and continue to govern on a caretaker basis. They are still negotiating among themselves toward forming an coalition, but no longer seem to have the option of forming a minority government. One hypothetical way out which is under discussion would be for president Guntis Ulmanis to use his constitutional powers and call new elections if some defections from the leftist coalition would lead to a hung parliament. (8)
In Estonia, it was announced yesterday that president Lennart Meri asked outgoing prime minister Tiit Vahi to form a new government. Vahi’s tripartite government dissolved itself earlier this month when deputy prime minister Edgar Savisaar was ousted because of his involvement in secretly taping conversations of ministers and politicians. In renominating Vahi, Meri said that the country´s highest priority at the moment is to secure Estonia’s credibility in the eyes of its partners as a state ruled by law, fully clearing up and publicizing the facts of the taping affair. Vahi’s right-of-center Coalition Party and its "centrist" Rural Union ally are negotiating with the "rightist" Reform Party toward forming a new government, which would command 61 of the parliament’s 101 seats. Vahi has 14 days to present his platform to parliament, which can then vote to authorize him to proceed to forming the government. (9)
Ukraine Unhappy over Russian Trade Restrictions, Likely Snub at UN.