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01/10/2016

Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma resigns

Europe's East

Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma resigns

Laimdota Straujuma

[Wikimedia]

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma said today (7 December) that she was resigning her post after political squabbles within her centre right ruling coalition and dissatisfaction about her leadership.

Straujuma made the announcement after meeting with the country’s President Raimonds Vejonis. She gave no more details.

Straujuma’s hawkish ruling coalition won a 2014 general election after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbour and former ruler, in Ukraine.

The coalition was made up of the Unity party, the Nationalist Alliance and the Union of Greens and Farmers. But many members were unhappy with her leadership style.

“She has been quite a good Prime Minister in the sense that she has been able to consolidate this very diverse ruling coalition. But at the same time, there was quite a serious problem of political leadership,” political analyst Ivars Ijabs said.

>>Read: Upcoming Latvian EU presidency slammed for anti-Russian bias

“The ruling party, “The Unity” party, was very much dissatisfied with this very kind of ambiguous and grey, and very civil service-like behaviour of Straujuma,” Ijabs said.

President Vejonis said he regretted that “internal political quarrels” had scuppered Straujuma’s government and called on the political parties to rapidly hammer out a new leadership for the Baltic country.

“This is not a moment where we can wait for too long time,” he told a news conference. “The internal political situation has caused this crisis, but we also have to take into account … the escalation of the security situation in Europe.”

Latvia is a member of both NATO and the European Union and has backed EU economic sanctions imposed against Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Some fear that Latvia’s Russian-speaking communities could become geopolitical flashpoints, potentially manipulated by Putin to destabilize the region. Moscow has long complained about the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltics.

>>Read: Latvian PM: If Russia attacks NATO, the treaty will be enforced

The government has taken a robust stance on security. After taking over as prime minister in January, Straujuma has boosted defence spending and joined Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania in pressing for a bigger NATO presence in the region.

Last year’s victory brought a sigh of relief from many worried that the pro-Russian Concord party might gain power and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a friendly voice in the European Union.