Godmanis, Ivars (Latvia)
Ivars Godmanis was elected prime minister by the 100-member parliament in Dec. 2007, claiming 54 votes. This followed the resignation of incumbent Aigars Kalvitis in response to opposition to his attempted dismissal of the head of the anti-corruption bureau. Godmanis, who had earlier served as Latvia’s first post-Soviet premier, became head of the country’s 14th government in 16 years.
Ivars Godmanis was born in Riga on 27 Nov. 1957. After graduating from the University of Latvia in 1974, he joined the university’s Institute of Solid-State Physics as a junior scientific assistant and rose to the post of senior lecturer by the time he left in 1988.
In that year Godmanis joined the Latvian Popular Front, becoming deputy chairman. After independence in 1990 he served as prime minister for a 3 year term that focused on economic transition. However, in the crisis that followed the freeing-up of prices he was forced out of office. For the next 5 years he worked in the private sector before returning as minister of finance from 1998–99. He then rejoined the private sector and in 2004 became a member of the Latvian Way Party. After elections in Nov. 2006, Godmanis joined the coalition government as minister of the interior. Following the resignation of Kalvitis, he was appointed prime minister by President Zatlers on 14 Dec. 2007.
Godmanis initially pledged to cut inflation, raise living standards to European levels within 10 years, and prepare for the introduction of the euro. However, Latvia’s economy and national currency were undermined during 2008 by the global financial downturn, and by the end of the year his government was negotiating a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund and the Nordic countries. Meanwhile, Latvia’s relations with Russia were aggravated in Jan. 2008 as each country expelled a diplomat for conduct ‘incompatible with status’ and in May the Latvian parliament approved the EU’s Lisbon Treaty on institutional and administrative reform which had been signed in Dec. 2007.
In Feb. 2009 anti-government protests in Riga over the government’s economic policy left 40 injured and resulted in over 100 arrests. Godmanis subsequently announced his resignation on losing the backing of the government’s two main coalition partners. Valdis Dombrovskis was named his successor.