January 23, 2019 / 1:57 PM / 9 months ago

Latvia's Karins confirmed as PM, ending lengthy political deadlock

Nominated Latvia's Prime Minister's candidate Krisjanis Karins presents his cabinet to the Parliament before its vote in Riga, Latvia January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday backed a new government under Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins of the centre-right New Unity party, ending months of political deadlock following October’s election.

Karins’ coalition consists of five of the seven parties in parliament, excluding only the pro-Russia Harmony party and the Union of Greens and Farmers.

The U.S.-born Karins, 54, said his government aimed to clean up Latvia’s financial system, mired in money-laundering scandals, and to tackle corruption.

Latvia’s central bank governor is awaiting trial on charges of accepting a bribe, which he denies. One of the biggest banks, ABLV, went into liquidation last year after U.S. authorities accused it of laundering vast amounts of money for clients in the former Soviet Union.

“This is actually a threat to our whole society. We need to address this threat,” Karins, a former economy minister and linguistics professor, said in a speech to parliament before the vote confirming him as prime minister.

October’s general election delivered a highly fragmented parliament and Karins’ New Unity, holding just eight seats out of 100, is the smallest of seven parties.

The Harmony party, which is supported by ethnic Russians who make up a quarter of Latvia’s population, is the biggest party with 23 seats, but other parties have shut it out of power.

GRAPHIC-Latvia's euro cash waves: tmsnrt.rs/2FFXn3W

Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; Editing by Simon Johnson and Gareth Jones

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