Thursday, December 6, 2007

After PM resigns...political crisis goes on

After a week at the shores of Bosphorus I am back at the shores of the Baltic Sea. Yesterday, as it was promised already a month ago, the former PM finally stepped down from his office. Strangely, but first source I heard this information from was BBC, because they transmitted that piece of news while I was actually driving to work accross the Daugava river. The longest rule of the PM in post-independence Latvia is finally over and that is achievement of an civic society already. It means that within a year because of a pressure emanating from the civic society speaker of the parliament and prime ministers had to leave their office.

In the meantime the president has convened Ivars Godmanis (LC/LPP), Valdis Dombrovskis (JL) and Edgars Zalāns (TP) for consultations today, because according to the Latvian constitution it is the president who is entitled to nominate a new head of the cabinet. Pollsters reveal that distrust in the Latvian populace is overwhelming, and the fact that 68% of respondents would like to see politically independent candidate as future PM (that also shows how uneducated average voter in this country is about basic principles of statecraft in democratic society). Latvian constitution enables the candidate without any party affiliation to become PM, and already in 1995 the former PM Andris Šķēle made a precedent. Thus, the independent candidate cannot be excluded from the race for Latvian prime ministership.

In the meantime there is a lot of bluffing and speculations who would finally become the new PM. In the present situation when MP's are still hoping to salvage their welfare from possible snap elections it seems that the TP candidate has better options than other candidates. Mr Godmanis has already uttered that he does not want to be jokey for People's Party (TP) face saving. Also New Era (JL) has announced that they do not want to be a political force that would be assigned to solve the problems committed by previous government. In such situation Mr Zalāns who was maire of the Western town of Kuldīga looks almost an optimal candidate, if not the fact that he was the head of the former PM Šķēle bureau chief.

Russian "Kommersant" speculates that even the former minister of regional affairs Mr Štokenbergs could be offered as a candidate, but to me such candidature looks inprobable however. If TP want to play their game till the end, then they need trusted leutenants and if Mr Štokenbergs was thrown out of the party, it somehow does not seem as a sign of trust.

There is plenty of time for president to nominate the candidate but the circle of potential top notchers is artificially narrow. It seems that president is unwilling or unable to cut his unbilical cord with the present governing coalition. In the meantime Latvia is mired in scandal caused by the decision of the head of the Latvian public TV not to show the movie about Vladimir Putin day before elections to the Russian Duma. The whole story seems just ludicrous today, and while some commentators have called such censorship of news from public TV as "finlandisation" then my colleague Dr Andris Sprūds quite correctly has named it "gazpromisation" of Latvia.

The point is that even during the high time of "finlandisation" Finnish industry and its strategic energy sector was in Finnish hands. Even if there was self-censorship to avoid bad news about the USSR emanating from Finland, never was there such contraditory situations when the public TV director does not know what the Supervisor of te Public Radion and TV does. In "gazpromised" Latvia political elites are fractionalized and continue their political infighting without establishing clear rules of the game. Also all pipelines in Latvia already belong to the Latvijas Gāze, Gazprom, Itera Latvija consortium. Latvia already uses about 30% of gas for its energy production, that is higher even than in gas producing Netherlands or Norway. If Latvian government and parliament decided now to build the new gas power station, and thus put the nuclear power project in Ignalina on backburner, it would show that Latvia is literally "gazpromised".

With bad news blocked from the public TV, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Lavrov arriving to exchange the signed border agreement documents on December 18 in Riga, and new gas power station project in Saeima in second reading, Latvia now does not have a government. It does not sound as bad as in Belgium for example, but the situation is definitely faraway from the best examples of the Northern good governance culture.


Anonymous said...

Oh come on, it's all Gazprom. They pretty much own Latvijas Gaze and Itera is just a money laundering mess.

As long there is so much dirty money and unscrupulous people in politics, Latvia will never be cleaned up.

Baltic said...

To anonymous:

I share your apprehensions, but until you cant provide me with data clearly stating that Itera and LG are Gazprom money laundering offices I do not want to name them as such. It is an issue from a pure academic point of view, but crooks know it and it isn't easy to learn how the books are "really cooked". Thus, unscrupulous folks are at stake, and I believe that it is possible to find such ones even in the small and corporate Latvia:) Fingers crossed!