Latvia parliament approves new broad coalition government

VILNIUS (Reuters) -Latvia's parliament voted on Friday to confirm Evika Silina of the centre-right New Unity party as the next prime minister, leading a broad coalition, following the resignation last month of Krisjanis Karins.

The government of Karins, who will now become foreign minister, was a leading critic of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and one of Kyiv's strongest supporters in both the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

Silina, a former lawyer who served as welfare minister, is expected to follow a similar course.

"I think there will be no changes in Latvia's tough security policy, and there will be no changes in support for Ukraine," said Filips Rajevskis, a political scientist in Riga.

"The most significant policy shift could be the new government's intention to legislate on human rights, such as to try to allow marriages for same-sex couples."

Silina's appointment means all three Baltic republics - including Estonia and Lithuania, all EU and NATO members bordering Russia - will be led by female prime ministers.

Reflecting security worries, Silina's government committed to raising defence spending to 3% of gross domestic product by 2027, up from 2.25% of GDP in 2023.

She also pledged to switch to all-Latvian language education by 2025 in the country where ethnic Russians are a quarter of population and fear losing their identity, and to fence off Latvia's Belarus and Russia borders by the end of 2023.

Karins, also of New Unity, the largest party in the 100-seat parliament, resigned after a breakdown in relations with junior partners in his multi-party coalition.

Silina crafted a new, narrow majority with the left-leaning Progressives party and the Greens and the Farmers Union, a coalition of conservative groups fronted by Aivars Lembergs, the mayor of port town Ventspils who was put on a U.S. sanctions list for alleged corruption in 2019.

Latvia's next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2026.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Heinrich)