Last days of the 2007 are passing away and it is finally possible to fully look back on the politically eventful year. After parliamentary elections (that promised stability of the right wing government transition) in October 2006 everything was turned upside down throughout 2007. First, it was discovered that the biggest winners of the parliamentary elections - Peoples (TP) and First Christian (LC/LPP) parties - stole the elections with illegal election campaign financing. The rest of events - illegal changes in the law of security organizations, arrest of the maire of Ventspils, questionable election process of the president, the summer referendum, resignation of the speaker of the Saeima, willingness of the PM Aigars Kalvītis to sack the head of the Anti Corruption Agency (KNAB), and finally demonstrations following this row of events - were a response to the false belief of the coalition parties about their election ''victory''. It is widely believed that bad behaviour promotes vices and the year 2007 in Latvia is the best example of such belief.
The fact that intelligentsia and foreign diplomats had to remind Latvian politicians about their questionable acts only fostered continued political culture of irresponsibility. The consequence of such governance was exeplified by the Latvian politicians mere willingnes to stay at power BUT not to rule! Latvian political elite followed into footsteps of the Soviet nomenklatura when nobody wanted to take resonsibility for their acts. In the Soviet regime collective ideals prevailed and it was tricky to take private initiative without thinking about possible repercussions from the godfathers of the collective clan - be it politburo, gang of old Komsomol or simply old schoolmates. There are those naturaly evolving leaders who were actually never accepted as leaders by the rest of the society, but who insisted for themselves that they have the will to stay in power. The will of power is the only drive for such folks and questions of ethics and moral behaviour are utterly foreign to them, because they perceive the world around them in Machiavellian competition ground, where all other members of the society act similarly to themselves. Will for power is very much part of the totalitarian rule and therefore such "leaders" believe that populist masses should blindly follow them. It is impossible for them to accept existence of critical dicussions, heterogenous group behaviour, and aspects of multiculural global governance that comes into our everyday life through the consumer culture of liberal capitalism.
There are thus many examples of unwillingness to rule in Latvia that it is hard to mention all of them. Just the latest came last week when the new government was formed. Whilst Ivars Godmanis was forming the government nobody was really willing to become minister of education, economics and interior. Although the PM is the nominal leader of the cabinet the Latvian tradition follows the bad example of ministries being fiefdoms for singular ministers. Thus, the PM traditionally does not take responsibility for the acts of cabinet as the whole, but delegates the responsibility at will to singular ministers. In such a situation legitimate question arises, why is the post of the PM needed at all, if he never takes any responsibility for his acts, but simply delegates to the ministers? Aye, and I can imgaine that the answer would be that in Latvia PM has the task of heading the coalition government, but what about the promise to look after true public interest - simple promises?
Regardless of the new cabinet there are record queues on the Latvian - Russian border, food processing plants are bought by more effective Scandinavians or Lithuanians. There were Latvian IT firms offering Latvian government very efective and immediate solution to the endemic system of trucks queueing up in rural and uninhabited Latgale. Former minister of interior and present PM was unwilling to meddle into innovative approach, and so only fostered the prevailing culture of bribe giving and tax evasion on the Latvian-Russian border. There are about 25 corrupt customs officials detained already.
In the tourism industry former maire of Riga was able to operate the ferry line only through shady deals in the Riga City government. Now, luckily, the Riga Seaport allows Estonian Tallink to operate from Riga to Stockholm, and Ventspils port authority allows Estonian and Scandinavian companies to operate in its Swedish and Saaremaa shipping routes. There are no Latvian entrepreneurs, however, because it is widely known in Latvia that in order to start a serious business one must give a tithe to the corrupt politician.
The governor of the Bank of Latvia was warning about Latvian overheated economy already at the end of 2005, but those entitled to rule only accepted half baked anti - inflation plan in September 2007. In February 2007 there was a tragedy in Courland when Reģi elderly home burned down due to the inattentiveness of officials. It was expected that the Minister of Welfare would resign. Dagnija Staķe could not overhaul the work of the Ministry although experts gave her multitude of proposals, and she finally left the sinking government of Aigars Kalvītis in order to be eligible to the compensation in amount of minister's three monthly wages. The whole principle of such compensation is sick and only promotes the culture of irresponsibility!
Members of the governing coalition are wondering about the sudden dissatisfaction of broad layers of the society. In the meantime they were never willing to inquire how the goverment and civic society in Latvia interacts. There are several civil servants and also some present ministers who foolishly believe that the long term security of Latvia is guarded by mere membership in the EU and NATO. Thus, the open courting with Russia is considered as something natural. To me such behaviour of Latvian politicians looks suicidal, and in addition it does not help to europeanize the Latvian post-Soviet and stagnant governance culture.
Present political elite are not able to provide new strategy for Latvia as a member of multilateral international organizations in the ever shrinking world. Any critique from members of the civil society is perceived among the traditional elite as a conspiracy of international financiers against sacred and natural "sovereign right" to continue the culture of nepotism and graft.
Unwillingness to rule and fooling the electorate, foreign partners and themselves cannot continue indefinitely. Present government coalition is trying to solve the problems that were made by themselves. It was Latvian Transport Supremo who continued reiterating the slogan "ACCELERATE THE ECONOMY" and "the problem in Latvia is not small expenditures, but small incomes of people" thoroughout last two years. The same minister was the first who was secured his place in the government as a transport minister. He is still very expressive in his public pronouncements and accuses the European Commission and its Competition Council in Latvia as preventing his business to "accelerate". The same person now does not want to take the responsibility and become the minister of economics, because he publickly announced that his business deals with Russian partners in transport sector are more important than the state of overall economy.
The mediocricity of the Latvian political elite is endemic and without snap elections and new political party coming on the scene one should not expect stretegic improvements of the Latvian governance culture. The government of Ivars Godmanis has formed his interim government to secure mere power for bunch of individuals. While the overall unwillingness to rule prevails civil society is trying to consolidate in Latvia. There were good news from Poland after snap elections this year, and I very much hope that the Polish scenario would be repeated in Latvia.
Happy New Year! Laimīgu Jauno Gadu! Head Uut Aastat!