Wednesday, July 2, 2008

June polling data (updated - news from the Riga City Council)

Today's Diena published monthly pollster about the trust in political parties in Latvia. The ominous trend that started in March 2007 continues and the number of undecided and alienated voters stay worryingly high. The number of undecided voters (30,2%) has reached the level of February 2008, and the disorientation of voters and ongoing saga with the former head of the KNAB probably explains it. Only one party from the governing coalition, the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) would pass the 5% threshold, that is the requested percentage of total votes in order to get into parliament. The opposition Russophone Reconciliation Centre (SC) has lost bits of their appeal due to ambivalent behavior in supporting opposition causes, but sometimes voting together with the governing coalition. Nevertheless they are steady leaders (10,5%) in polls for the last 1,5 years and I would predict that they would stay so, because they have always been in opposition.

Also it must be noted that right at this moment Latvia has reached almost the median point (the middle of it will be reached exactly in October 2008) of the four year election cycle. It means that the interest of general public about party political positions is generally vague now.

Q: For which party you think you would vote for, if parliamentary elections would take place tomorrow?
Data from www.diena.lv

The data shows another worrying trend. Namely the highest support among the governing coalition parties has the ZZS. It is the party without any noticeable policy proposals and weak politicians. The Minister of Agriculture Mārtiņš Roze (ZZS) just survived the vote of no confidence, although during his last six year tenure as the minister the sugar industry is being closed under his supervision and dairy industry is on the brink of collapse.

I personally supported the closure of sugar industry from the pure logic of international trade that says that if the world price for sugar is lower than Latvian produced that it is more reasonable to invest those monies in comparatively advantageous industry. Latvian consumers had to subsidize Latvian sugar producers, who due to their climate could not produce this sweet stuff as cheaply as in Australia, Brazil or Caribbean. Any economics textbook says that in order to transform the redundant industry the government must take care about the reeducation of the redundant workforce. In the meantime Mr Roze party colleague and Minister of Education Tatjana Koķe (ZZS) has done little to anything to reintegrate redundant workers from the closed sugar industry into the workforce. Vocation education in Latvia has collapsed over all, although she has been an integral part of the Latvian policy on education since 1999.

Also and more importantly, the nominal financier of the ZZS and still their PM candidate is the Maire of Ventspils, who was imprisoned in March 2007, but is being released on bail now. Among coalition party members there has not been any discussion about misdeeds of the Maire of Ventspils (they cant even sack him!!!), and if there is such a support for a party with such a equivocal background it makes me reckon that Latvian public is tired of democratic regime and better wishes to see authoritarian rule coming back. After the Loskutovs affair and the latest poll data I have followed the discussion forums in Diena, NRA and LA, and the outright disapproval about democracy and call for a strong hand is omnipresent in comments unfortunately... .

Updated

As to prove the raison d'etre of the alienated and undecided voters LETA just announced that the governing coalition of the Riga City Council could just have ceased to exist. The rainbow coalition consists of the People's Party (TP), First and Latvian Way party union (LC/LPP), Social Democrats (LSDSP) and Fatherland and Freedom (TB/LNNK) and Jānis Birks (TB/LNNK) is the Maire of Riga. The motion of no confidence was started by the opposition New Era (JL) party and its petition is being signed also by following persons from the Riga governing coalition - vice Maire Jānis Dinevičs (LSDSP), Edmunds Krastiņš (TP), Dainis Īvāns (LSDSP), Aris Lācis (TP), Baiba Rozentāle (TP), Andrejs Vilks (LSDSP), Jānis Karpovičs (LSDSP) and some members of "Dzimtene" fraction. The second vice maire Andris Ārgalis (TP) said that he would also sign the petition if there will be 30 signatures on it.

It is less than a year until the municipal elections in Latvia. Incumbent Maire of Riga is not really popular and corruption scandals have plagued the city particularly during the last 2 years. It is rumoured that if the coalition falls then JL would take the place of TB/LNNK. I guess that for JL such a move is suicidal, but to talk about the future coalition in the city of Riga we must wait till the news really prove the end of the existing coalition. It is particularly important now, because any changes in the Riga government in such a small country like Latvia inescapably would bring changes also in the national government.

The fall of the existing coalition is close, because Diena just announced (17.00CET) that the Maire Jānis Birks has offered New Era (JL) party to participate in the coalition. According to Birks the signatures of Social Democrats (LSDSP) on the petition only proves that LSDSP has exited from the governing coalition of the city of Riga, thus he offers the JL party to take Social Democrats place instead. If TP, LC/LPP would agree on such a move it would prove that Social Democrats were screwed, again. If JL would agree on entering the existing coalition, then I do not really see how determined they will be to lead the August 2 referendum campaign.

Anyway, there is a lot at stake now in the Riga City council, and it WILL affect also national political scene. The hot political summer has really started even disregarding the upcoming Song & Dance Festival, and lets wait till the news prove the new outcome from this political battle!

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