Prime Minister Andris Skele yesterday demanded the resignation of Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans, found in violation of anti-corruption laws by a General Prosecutor’s investigation. The move opens a fifth vacancy in the cabinet, following the recent ouster of the ministers of agriculture, health, and culture — on poorly substantiated charges of corruption — and the voluntary resignation of the Internal Affairs Minister for professional reasons. Latvia’s defense minister also was ousted recently on corruption charges; that vacancy is the only one thus far to have been filled.
Leaders of the governing coalition reacted angrily yesterday, and some called outright for replacing Skele, a nonparty businessman who is displaying a penchant for confrontation with the political parties. The party leaders feel that the Prime Minister has exceeded his powers in ordering the Prosecutor General to investigate all the ministers and in interpreting some of the investigation’s findings as punishable violations. (BNS, July 21) The crisis could not have come at a worse time. Latvia is working to reverse the European Union’s recent decision to relegate Latvia and Lithuania to a hypothetical second round of accession talks, after Estonia will have been admitted in the first round.
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