Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 59

Latvia’s National Security Council yesterday narrowly endorsed Lainis Kamaldins for another four-year term as director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), the country’s top internal security post. The senior governing party, Latvia’s Way, successfully pushed through the renomination despite Kamaldins’ poor track record–notwithstanding the political outcry he triggered only a week ago by insinuating that Riga’s Jewish community may have firebombed its own synagogue. All parliamentary parties, except Latvia’s Way, disavowed Kamaldins’ faux-pas (see the Monitor, March 19, 22).

Barely three weeks ago, President Guntis Ulmanis had pronounced Kamaldins’ performance “unsatisfactory.” Throughout Kamaldins’ tenure as OPC director, Ulmanis told the country that he as president “never received advance information about potential acts which would endanger the country’s internal security. The OPC always provides information only after the incidents have occurred… This reflects the director’s inadequate professional skills… The next director would have to start all the work from scratch.” Kamaldins responded by publicly contradicting the president point-blank. Further, he indicated at that juncture that he would not seek reappointment (BNS, March 9-10).

What changed in the meantime is unclear, but Latvia’s Way stuck by its man, and Ulmanis is said to have ended up voting in favor of Kamaldins at yesterday’s National Security Council session. Under the Latvian constitution, the president’s powers are limited; the final say in appointing the OPC Director is up to the parliament. In practice, most decisions come only after a complex bargaining process among the factions making up the governing coalition. The president himself is elected by the parliament. Ulmanis does not have that option: His term expires in three months’ time and he is not eligible for re-election (BNS, March 23-24).