The Coalition Talks: A guide to week two

Two weeks have no passed since the thrilling conclusion to Latvia's most eventful Saeima (parliament) election in quite some time, the results of which have led to a fractured legislature and a bit of a nightmare for party leaders to negotiate a coalition agreement that makes enough parties happy for the more than 50 seats required for a majority government. If you are new to Latvia's politics, you might want to check out our primer on the election and all of the parties, our analysis of the election results, our guide to the prime ministerial candidates, and last week's write-up first. Otherwise, here's our day-by-day recap of the most major happenings from the process that happened over the week:


Attīstībai/Par! announced that their board had unanimously voted against accepting Jānis Bordāns' proposed coalition model first released to parties and the press the Friday before. The lack of concrete details regarding how work should be shared or what the government would try to accomplish was criticized by party leadership, as was the move of publicly announcing the plan without hammering out details with the potential partners involved. The party indicated that they would begin working on their own coalition proposal, one that would not necessarily exclude the Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (ZZS) party that Bordāns refuses to include in his own plan.


The much discussed meeting between KPV LV ministerial candidate Aldis Gobzems and Saskaņa candidate Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis finally took place Tuesday morning. During the election, every major party explicitly drew a "red line" against working with the traditionally Kremlin-friendly Saskaņa faction except for Gobzem's KPV LV up until just days before the election, leading many to fear that the two might form a coalition together if they gained enough seats to do so. Although that didn't happen, Gobzems raised eyebrows last week when he said that he would be still be meeting with Saskaņa as part of the party's due diligence in the government formation process. It appears that the talks were not focused on Saskaņa having a potential role in the next government (which would be prevented by all five of the other parties), but instead on issues that both could work on in the next Saeima and also on Rīga city council.

A bit later in the day, Gobzems met with Bordāns once again to continue their discussions about potentially forming a new government together. However, these talks did not seem to yield any major new developments, with Gobzems staying mute regarding whether or not he would accept Bordāns' coalition plan released the previous Friday. Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) reported later in the night that JKP leadership had discussed the possibility of working in parliamentary opposition should their coalition proposal not be accepted, a move that they would allegedly prefer over working with ZZS in government.


In an interview on LTV's morning show Rīta Panorama, Aldis Gobzems announced that KPV LV was getting ready to announce their own proposal for forming the next government. In the interview he stressed that a plan of work to be done by the next government should be decided upon by coalition partners before positions to head cabinet posts could be divided (as Bordāns did the other way around in his plan). Later in the same edition of Rīta Panorama, Bordāns confirmed that the previous day's LTV report that JKP would be likely be satisfied working in Saeima's opposition if it did not get the coalition plan it wanted.

Later in the day, Attīstībai/Par! met first with Jaunā Vienotība to discuss shared interests such as health, education, and tax reforms, and then with JKP where Attīstībai/Par representatives presented Bordāns with their own vision of a coalition government. Bordāns said that it would take time to evaluate the plan which has not yet been publicly released, but reiterated that JKP would refuse to work in any coalition plan that includes ZZS. Although Attīstībai/Par still apparently would prefer to include ZZS, party leaders have not made their inclusion a "red line" issue. LSM reported Wednesday evening that most parties to be included in Saeima have agreed to decrease the amount of municipalities from 119 to a smaller number, meaning that it could become a priority for the next government regardless of its final composition.


President Raimonds Vējonis met with representatives from Jaunā Vienotība, ZZS, Nacionālā apvienība, and Attīstībai/Par!, the four parties with the least amounts of seats in the next Saeima. During and after the talks, the president expressed his desire for a broad, six-party coalition that included all parties aside from Saskaņa. He also reiterated his desire to be included in the process of picking the next Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and the Interior. Current Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, who represented Jaunā Vienotība, announced that his party will not be forming the next cabinet but does not have a particular favorite for the next prime minister.


President Vējonis met with representatives from Jaunā konservatīvā partija, KPV LV, and Saskaņa, the three largest parties in the new Saeima. With JKP he discussed the possibility of a "conservative bloc" that would have Bordāns, Nacionāla apvienība candidate Roberts Zīle, and Jaunā Vienotība candidate Krišjānis Kariņš in a power-sharing arrangement. According to Bordāns, Vējonis expressed no objections to the possiblities of JKP members Juris Jurašs and Juta Strīķe leading the Ministry of the Interior. Not much has been reported regarding Vējonis' meeting with KPV LV, but it is worth pointing out that in his meeting with Saskaņa, Vējonis agreed with their prime ministerial candidate Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis that the "red lines" that were drawn against the traditionally Kremlin-friendly party before the election by other parties was a regrettable policy.

At the end of the afternoon,  President Vējonis suggested in a press conference that the parties agree upon either Jānis Bordāns, Gobzems, or Artis Pabriks as a prime minister. He also invited all three candidates to submit the documents necessary to receive a state security clearance, and reminded everyone that he would only nominate a candidate who would be able to obtain such a clearance. Vējonis also identified the soonest time that a prime ministerial candidate could be nominated as being Tueday, November 6th — incidentally, the same day that congressional elections take place in the United States.

Week 2 power rankings:

Like last week, Otto and I put together our own "power rankings" of the candidates (and other options) in terms of how "strong" an option they are after the first week of negotiations. We've updated those here based on this week's happenings, and unless a government has been confirmed by the end of next week we will once again update these based on the events that will have transpired over the course of the next seven days.
  1. Artis Pabriks (Attīstībai/Par!) (+1 since last week): Pabriks has made all of the right moves so far, staying out of the spotlight while still being proactive in talks with other parties. Importantly, he has not drawn any unnecessary "red lines" aside from the common one of not working with Saskaņa, and was included in the president's short list on Friday. Throughout the week, political analysts have frequently identified him as the most likely next Prime Minister of Latvia. He's far from a surefire bet, but we still see him as the strongest of all the options on the list at the end of week 2.
  2. Aldis Gobzems (KPV LV) (+1 since last week): Pre-election and post-election KPV LV have continued to be two completely different animals. Despite Gobzems' frequent assurances to his supporters via Facebook live that he has not and will not compromise on any principles, his toning down on rhetoric and surprisingly non-hostile stance towards ZZS since the election have put him in a surprisingly strong position to form a new government. His party is still tied for second place in terms of most amounts of seats in the next Saeima, and he has burned a lot less bridges than Bordāns has seemed to have in the past two weeks. However, everything will depend on what his yet-to-be-released coalition plan looks like, and whether the other parties (and the president for that matter) are willing to forgive and forget his campaign season rhetoric.
  3. Janis Bordāns (Jaunā konservatīvā partija) (-2 since last week): It looks like Bordāns might have overplayed his hand after all. Despite being one of three candidates to be invited by the president to submit documents for security clearance, the fact that he was openly discussing the possibility of JKP serving as a "responsible opposition" in Saeima as early as Tuesday is not a good sign that the party is ready to make the kind of compromises likely necessary to form a new government.
  4. An outside compromise candidate (+1 since last week): The fact that President Vējonis identified only three candidates from the seven parties to be included in Saeima as ones that the others should fall behind seems to suggest that the others are not under his active consideration. Aside from that, none of them have shown much interest or initiative. 
  5. Roberts Zīle (Nacionālā apvienība) (+1 since last week): Zīle has virtually disappeared from the scene, and not in a way that makes it look like he's biding his time and waiting to emerge as a compromise option at the last second. That being said, it's looking increasingly certain that Nacionālā apvienība will be included in the next coalition regardless of its composition, and even if party leader Roberts Dzintars has done most of the talking, Zīle still is their official candidate.
  6. Krišjānis Kariņš (Jaunā Vienotība) (-2 since last week): Like Zīle, Kariņš has virtually disappeared from the scene. The reason he's ranked lower is Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs' comment that the party will not seek to lead the next coalition, making it incredibly unlikely that we'll see Kariņš as a potential compromise prime minister after all.
  7. Early elections (no change since last week) (+1 since last week): This is still an extraordinarily unlikely scenario, but I will point out that I head a lot more nervous laughs by pundits about this possibility over the course of the last week than I did the previous.
  8. Māris Kučinskis (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība) (-1 since last week): Even if ZZS were to somehow lead the next government, it almost certainly wouldn't be with Kučinskis at the head. Party leader Armands Krauze has been doing all of the talking for the party, and the faction's patron oligarch Mayor of Ventspils since 1988 Aivars Lembergs has personally blamed Kučinskis for the party's lackluster results, calling him the "prime minister no one wanted in the first place."
  9. Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis (Saskaņa) (no change since last week): None of the non-Saskaņa parties made any dramatic about-faces over the course of the week, and even Aldis Gobzems' much ballyhooed meeting with Dombrovskis seems to have had nothing to do with government formation. Barring a shocking development over the course of the next week, Saskaņa will be locked out of its sixth consecutive coalition since first becoming Saeima's largest faction in 2010.
That's all for now. Check back next week for our updated power rankings of the candidates as well as the latest news regarding the discussions. Also, make sure to "like" us on Facebook for important top "stories of the day" each evening, and press "subscribe" at the top of this page for more of these guides to different Latvian issues as well as weekly news analyses.