Sunday, December 9, 2007

Who's going to be new PM?

Tomorrow morning the incumbent president is convening candidates with their "home work done" prior nominating the new head of the government. Valdis Zatlers demanded three candidates, Valdis Dombrovskis (JL), Ivars Godmanis (LC/LPP), and Edgars Zalāns (TP), whom political parties have nominated for the PM post, to prepare their program for the first hundred days in the office. Such reprimand sounds strange from the former doctor with questionable credentials. If there is possibility to envisage approximate number of surgeries to be performed in upcoming three months, then prime minister's position requires a lot of improvisation, thus his/her schedule is hard to plan. Political improvisation is particularly essential in the parliamentary republic, because to make heterogenous coalition members to work as a one team is challenging task.

However, in the situation with "home work" to be prepared there is some sense in this process. It means that prospective PM's must show a vision to solve present economic ills and thus regain the lost legitimacy among broad swathes of population. The vision and untarnished credentials should be best assets of the PM candidate for president making up his mind, because it would solve both issues that made the former government to resign - tarnished reputation of governing coalition parties and lack of new ideas to lead Latvia out of this murky situation.

Among the candidates mentioned best credentials has Valdis Dombrovskis (JL-MEP). Straight from the academia he went to work into the Bank of Latvia and from there he joined founding members of the New Era (JL) party in 2002, and in 2005 he was elected as MEP in Strassbourg. Some experts have called his relative inexperience and lack of vision as major hindrances. In present situation, when president has not made up his mind, it would be foolish to reveal all the cards from the stack. Thus it would be simply incorrect to speak about the lack of vision from Dombrovskis' part, because not only we have not learned grand visions of other two candidates, we also do not know whether Mr Zatlers is not inclined to nominate independent candidate. It means that the understanding about the future vision of the governance should very much emanate from the credentials of those candidates (and that should make the president finally reckon).

Aye, Mr Godmanis has ample of experience because he is a grand old man of the Latvian politics. Some might argue that he has more clear vision than his physicist homologue Dombrovskis. I absolutely disagree with such statement due to the very simple fact that Ivars Godmanis has been in politics starting from first days of the post-independence Latvia. While being member of the liberal Latvijas Ceļš majority in parliament throughout the 1990's, why did he not help implemention of all the prerequisites for normal functioning of liberal democracy? In addition his reputation is tarnished by being acquinted with incumbent president during his youth, and being payrolled by Ainārs Šlesers after liberal Latvijas Ceļš failed to squeeze into the parliament.

Reputation of Edgars Zalāns is tarnished by the fact that he was the bureau chief of the former PM Mr Šķēle. Whilst looking into his CV ( it becomes clear that he does not understand that one or two month courses listened in the Queensland (Australia), Taouyana (Taiwan) and World Bank Economic Development institute usually count not as primary but additional education. Former maire of Kuldīga and present Minister of Regional affairs has undergone a full course in the "Leadership Academy". The latter institution was created by blessing of Mr Šķēle and there are psyhiatrists who argue that this institution is not only brainwashing centre, but it also causes serious mental disorders among "graduates" initiated by the "Leadership Academy". Whilst Mr Zalāns is graduate of such questionable institution I would expect any rational vision for solving existing legitimacy problems in Latvia, but continuation of magnanimous and discussionless governance culture in Latvia instead.

In this dire straits situation the task of the incumbent president is not easy indeed. His chancellary has avised him to work with three candidates. Four parties of the governing coalition have already announced that they would continue to work under leadership of Mr Zalāns. In the meantime there are several rumours spreading either about JL incompetence or wish to use all this readiness to participate in the new government as a simple PR trick to raise their ratings. However ludicrous the background of rumours would not be I find that present situation really represent the classical "chicken game". The distrust between the coalition members and JL is justified, because antagonistic elites spilled a lot of bad blood on both sides, thus we cannot expect to have fruitful cooperation among them without confidence building measures. Nevertheless, the very government formation is a confidence building measure, thus how else the present governing coalition would imagine the JL to show their credibility? If the governing coalition failed and lost the trust among the public then they should give JL a try to form a government because the governing coalition still has 52 votes majority (thus, they have nothing to lose whatsover). If they are afraid to give even such a small chance to the JL designated PM candidate then it makes me unwillingly to think, that members of the governing elite are concerned not about the clean up and stabilisation of the political system, but some shady deals that possible new PM could terminate. Thus, it is paramount for the president to show his impartiality and distance himself from possibly tarnishing political games.

In such a situation it is a crucial moment for the president, to play his neutral role of an arbiter. It means that he should show his political independence to the public by naming Valdis Dombrovskis, thus giving the chance for New Era to prove their willingness to leave the past behind and form a new government. President himself believes that the best option to bring Latvia out from the endemic circle of distrust would be to form a five party center right government. I would question such will of the president, but even if he believes that such five party coalition would lead the governing elite out of the present cul de sac, I would name Valdis Dombrovskis if I would be him. Critics would object me saying that the parliamentary majority consisting of four parties of the governing coalition (52 votes) have already expressed their wish to work under leadership of Mr Zalāns, and why not Mr Godmanis afer all?

To answer such hypothetical objections I would retort that the very reason for resignation of Mr Kalvītis was not solely his lack of leadership, that many government advisors blame him now without any sense of remorse. Foremost, it was the irresponsible goverance style of People's Party (TP) that allowed to push through ill famed laws (that undermined the very foundations of Latvian democracy) without any discussions in the parliament, and that also allowed to nominate the very incumbent president in the Zoo. If president wants to cut the umbilical cord with the governing coalition and establish his reputation as an independent playmaker in Latvian balance of power system he should give Mr Valdis Dombrovskis a try. Mr Godmanis could be nominated after Mr Dombrovskis would fail to form the government, and Mr Godmanis is still the Interior Minister of the government that just fell due to the lack of trust among the public. Maturation of the Latvian political system, independence of the presidential institution, and future of the Latvian long term and sustained liberal democracy are at stake during tomorow's consultations between the president and prospective ministerial candidates.

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