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Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma steps down

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has resigned following political quarrels within her ruling coalition. The president said he would talk to all parties before choosing a candidate to form a new government.

There have been rumors in recent weeks about the imminent resignation of the 64-year-old politician. Last week, she claimed that there were concerted efforts to remove her but also signaled her willingness to continue in office.

Straujuma had been under pressure, including from within her own Unity party, over the tax hikes in the 2016 budget.

"I see that new ideas are needed, new contributions and energy that can continue to build further on these foundations," Straujuma told reporters on Monday, after a meeting with President Raimond Vejonis. She listed her government's achievements and thanked voters for re-electing her to the post in 2014.

Straujuma's three-party centre-right ruling coalition returned to power in the 2014 general election after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbor and former ruler, in Ukraine.

The governing coalition has been one of the most outspoken supporters of EU sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"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.

"The ruling 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 called on the political parties to rapidly works towards forming a new government.

"This is not a moment where we can wait for too long time," he said in 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."

There are fears that Latvia's Russian-speaking communities could be manipulated by Moscow to destabilize the region. President Putin's government has long voiced its concern about the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltics.

Latvia, a member of both NATO and the European Union, has boosted defense spending and joined neighbors Estonia and Lithuania in requesting a greater NATO presence in the region.

ap/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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