Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Estonian "Monument affair" and possible shifts in the Latvian government

For the last two weeks I was extremely busy due to the formative events in Tallinn and my fourteen BA thesis supervisees at the Riga Stradins University. Tallinn events came unexpectedly, because until the last moment the Estonian PM said that the symbol of the bygone era would not be redeployed prior the May 9th. It is still unknown why the PM wanted to escalate the situation and only the history shall teach us reasons for that. However, this very Thursday we shall see in Samara how the EU and Russian representatives will get along, and what kind of repercussions Estonian government shall bear because of severance of the EU - Russian relations.

Accross the border from Estonia, last week the Head of the Latvian Central Electoral office, Mr Cimdars anounced that the date for the popular referendum in Latvia, concerning amendmends in the law of security organizations, will take place on 07.07.07. It is the day when Madame Freiberga will be her last day in the office. It is official now as well as final number of signatures collected was 214 000. Also, yesterday the Riga Region District Court announced that former/still acting maire of Ventspils will stay inprisoned while prosecutors office is still collecting information about his shady deals corrupting Latvian body politics for the last 15 years. Now there are still about three weeks until the Latvian presidential elections and all major parties have their candidates up and running.

People' s Party (TP) in their party congress decided to have former Ambassador to the US, Mr. Māris Riekstiņš as the presidential choice. Following the course their coalition mates, the united Christian First (PP) & Latvian Way Parties decided to present present mellow non - entity, the Ethnic Integration minister, Ms Kārina Pētersone as their candidate. Her candidacy is funny, because rumours about her as a lover of the former head of the Supreme Council, Mr. Anatolijs Gorbunovs are spreading since her candidacy has been set-up by the union of the Latvian way & the Christian First Party. Social Democrats (LSDSP) are not represented in the Saeima already for the second consecutive term, but they still presented a star politician of the Popular Front era Mr Dainis Īvāns as one of theirs. Union of Farmers and Greens offered this post to the former rector of the University of Latvia Mr Ivars Lācis, but nobody wants to make him/herself a political corpse while being nominated by THIS party and Mr Lācis declined his nomination. Fatherland Party in the meantime is still in the waiting position and do not have one single candidate.

As far the opposition is concerned, then the Russian interests representing Reconciliation centre and Human Rights in Latvia parties obviously have not proposed anyone. The opposition New Era, however, has not changed the tack and still stays with the candidate from the September 2006, Ms Sandra Kalniete. As an opposition party member she has little chance unless the present government falls and that is a rather likely event in Latvia during upcoming month, especially concidering the record of 13 governments during17 years since Latvia regained its independence (making the government serve about 1,13 years on the average). Present PM rules the middle Baltic state since December 2004 and he is true achiever if not the illegal election campaign financing. Thus, the fact that corruption is a rule and not an accident among the Latvian ruling circles is becoming apparent.

First, both the Madame President and the presidential candidate from the People's Party hinted that the disclosure of the list of politicians who were funded by the odious maire of Ventspils might bring grave consequences for the present governing coalition. Even before utterances of the Madame President the State Audit office found that 32 MP's from the governing coalition have failed declaring their incomes in a proper way, and due to the Latvian Internal Revenue Service lack of timely involvement those offenders would not be prosecuted.

In case there is a list of politicians being funded by odioze maire of Ventspils it should be made public prior presidential elections in the Latvian parliament on the June 6th. Actually the shade of the maire is hanging over the Union of Farmers and Greens (UFG) that was funded by former maire of Ventspils, and this party has four ministerial positions as well as the post of the speaker of the parliament. If Mr Emsis is still struggling with his duties then Latvian farmers have openly asked Mr Roze (UFG) to resign from the post of the Minister of Agriculture. After the tragedy in the Reģi elderly home the Welfare Minister Ms Dagnija Staķe (UFG) should have resigned already, but her party bosses openly stated that there are no better specialist in Latvia to clean the mess in the Latvian system of the elderly care. Just about three weeks ago Latvian teachers sent a joint petition (with 6000 signatures) to the Minister of Education, Ms Baiba Rivža (UFG) asking to raise teachers salaries in case Latvian students do not want to miss their final examinations this year because of their strike... . The situation with UFG ministers is tense because they have lost their legitimacy not only in the eyes of the majority Latvian electorate, but also in the eyes of the Latvian PM.

In the meantime the main opposition New Era party is against signing of the border treaty with Russia due to the legal wranglings. The former made the Saeima Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Andris Bērziņš (Latvian Way) a laughing-stock due to his hesitant attitude about the declaration of the Latvian parliament showing solidarity with Estonia. Therefore, there is no immediate possibility to see the UFG exiting and New Era entering the governing coalition. However, both Mr Riekstiņš and Ms Pētersone are rather weak candidates, that it seems that they are just for the first round run-off. It is more likely that after the June 6 or whereabouts the government might fall. Following the fall of the government the Latvian Transport Supremo might get his long awaited premiership, and shiny incumbent PM might be set up as a candidate for the second tour of the presidential race. Anyway, Latvian post - Soviet nomenklatura is witnessing one of the most serious shake-ups in its post-independence history. It somehow reminds me the omenous events in Seoul in 2000, when the Millenium Party was founded and clean-up of Korean politics took place. It does not mean that thus serious clean-up should happen in Latvia as well, but lets wait and see!

P.S. There is an article I wrote for the Bremen University East European Research Center.

No comments: