Latvia’s coalition government will try to carry on even as a minority government because "its collapse would suggest that Latvian governments can be changed under external pressure. This could cause major problems for any successor government," Prime Minister Guntars Krasts stated yesterday. The government lost its parliamentary majority after the left-of-center Saimnieks party pulled out on April 8, the day Moscow officially announced "economic measures" against Latvia. Linked to industrial and business groups interested in trading with Russia, Saimnieks is Latvia’s single-largest party, with twenty seats in the 1,000-seat parliament.
The pullout — termed by President Guntis Ulmanis a "defection from duty" — leaves the conservative Fatherland and Freedom, the right-of-center Latvia’s Way, and two small parties in the coalition government, which now need more parliamentary allies if they are to survive. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis is acting as internal affairs minister, the position vacated by Saimnieks leader Ziedonis Cevers, during whose watch the public order seemed to erode.
In the port of Ventspils, the trade union of Latvia’s largest oil terminal — two-thirds of whose work force is ethnic Russian — expressed "alarm" yesterday that Russian economic sanctions might hit that work force hard. (BNS, April 13)
Krasts yesterday postponed a U.S. visit scheduled for April 15-25. The visit had been intended for political consultations, investment promotion and launching cooperation programs under the charter signed in January by the United States with the three Baltic states. That document was also intended to be invoked as a safeguard against the type of bullying that Latvia has been facing for the last six weeks.