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Latvia's first female PM takes helm

Latvia welcomed its first female prime minister today after politicians approved a new centre-right coalition.

Sixty-four votes were cast in favour of Laimdota Straujuma's coalition, while 27 were against and the remaining nine politicians either abstained or were absent.

Previously a high-ranking civil servant specialising in agriculture, Ms Straujuma was unknown to the Latvian public until she became a compromise figure earlier this month during coalition talks.

President Andris Berzins had previously rejected all parties' prime minister candidates before the ruling centre-right party Unity decided to propose Ms Straujuma, 62.

She joined Unity to take the post, but it is unclear whether she will attempt to keep her position after Latvia holds parliamentary elections in October.

The previous government of Valdis Dombrovskis, who was the longest-serving prime minister in the Baltic state's history, resigned in November after a supermarket roof collapse killed 54 people and stunned the country.

Observers say one of Ms Straujuma's core tasks will be to ensure a timely and complete investigation into the tragedy given that most Latvians are sceptical that the guilty parties will be bear criminal responsibility.

Latvia, a country of two million people, has the fastest-growing economy in the 28-member European Union. On January 1, the country became the 18th member of the euro area.

AP

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