Thursday, October 16, 2008

Orange balloon deflated

The coming weekend the leading Peoples (TP) conservative party will have their congress. In October 2006 the TP together with the Prime Minister´s & transport supremo´s First and Latvian Way Union (LPP/LC) parties stole elections. After this TP managed to get 177, 481 total votes that gave them majority of seats (23 and +3 increase in comparison with 2002 elections) in the 100 member Latvian parliament.



It was Aigars Kalvitis who became the Prime Minister on December 2, 2004 after inability to agree on the 2005 budget and consequent withdrawal of their support for the Indulis Emsis (ZZS) government even though it was the TP finance minister who prepared the budget. A. Kalvitis led the country until December 5, 2007, when after ominous Cappuchino revolution extremely unpopular A. Kalvitis had to resign. Gradual decline of his popularity was fostered with his own colourful expressions, and new year promises to provide ``seven fat years`` was probably the most ironic among them.
I voiced my disapproval about the working methods of the former PM for quite some time. In any economics textbook it is clearly written that you ain't able to cool the overheated economy by flooding more money (the EU funds) into it. Instead of regulating the overheated economy (it was galloping at the stunning 13,7% in early 2007) he simply listened to high school educated transport minister, who ´s only slogan was `to simply accelerate the economy!`. Thus, instead of reaching the promised mean level of EU living standard in ten years the former Pm failed to perform thus needed structured reforms, institutionalize the rule of law and as a consequence all Latvian inhabitants must experience the hard landing of Latvian economy.


Economic crisis does not help to gain momentum for the TP spin doctors. Questionably conservative party was founded in 1996 and it uses shiny colours to distinguish itself from other representatives in the conservative wing of the political spectrum. The coming party congress is staged, and it is known already that the incumbent Minister of Interior Mareks Seglins will become the new leader of the TP. It is also known finally that Aigars Kalvitis plans to leave the parliament and politics, and Mr Kalvitis just approved such news while talking on the Latvian public radio.

Former PM sounded not only smug but outright ridiculous in the Wednesday´s TV show as well on radio this morning. He still considers that he did everything (!) right and blamed liberal opposition for creating too many bad news in the Latvian public space. Alright, so be it with his understanding about the political process in democratic society, but he sounded utterly stupid when in the weekly Kas notiek Latvija TV show former PM blamed Icelandic banks and Lehman Brothers bankruptcy for the ills of the present Latvian economy. It is over for the former PM now and good luck with his ice-hockey endeavours! Actually his latter activities have made Latvian public suspicious about his too close ties with the energy tycoons behind the Latvian eastern border. Probably that explains why the former PM was so easily discarded by his former party mates?

Whatever the party mates think about the former PM, the TP hopes to rise from the existing slump where majority of the Latvian political elite has found itself. While orange coloured TP will try to pump up its rank and file members this weekend, it is the Latvian president who is acting again. It was very much due to the agreement between the coalition parties, and TP as the largest among them, why Valdis Zatlers became the president. Now, the president has acquired a new head of the chancellery and his press secretary already left the office. There are certain changes in the air. I am sceptical, however, about the prospects of replacing some politicians and/or civil servants to change the post-soviet inertia in the Latvian political culture. It seems as if the civil society is wearily waiting for effects on the rise of utility prices prior the winter sets in. In the meantime the parliament is discussing the budget with the already engineered 1,87% annual deficit, the PM Godmanis is trying to find a new head of the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB), and the president with his family continues to enjoy his hobbies...



Photo: Aivars Liepinsh

8 comments:

nelielrīdziniece said...

"There are certain changes in the air."

What, alas, doesn't seem to be in the air are alternatives to current TP policies that a constructive opposition might offer, if it cared to do so....

Baltic said...

Its hard to make a constructive opposition from motley JL, SC, 5 member PS, 2 members of SCP and V. Lacis...

It is a good question - whether they care indeed? I assume that they do, but opposition is simply fragmented and one must wait till internal disagreements due to budget making and endogenous pressures will melt the present governing coalition below the 50 member line.

nelielrīdziniece said...

Granted, the opposition has splintered into various fractions. This, however, has been true for absolutely *every* sasaukums since the 5. Saeima. But what I meant by my comment is that I personally do not have a clue what JL in particular would have done differently up until the current global economic crisis had it been in power. (Undeniably, they deserve credit for having foreseen enormous problems with the economy back in 2003 when Repše was calling for 'belt-tightening' and Kalniete's response was to ask which embassy she should close.) But, how did JL's education, health care, local government consolidation, EU investment fund spending policies et al differ from TP's back in 2006 when we were all faced with an election? No matter how hard I look at Repše's administration's *policies*, I don't see much of a difference at all.

These are rhetorical questions. But, at least for me, the notion that JL is 'less corrupt' than TP isn't enough. Nor is their attempt to distinguish themselves now by having an improvised reaction to all moves by TP and/or the coalition. I keep waiting for the day that opposition parties will care enough to provide detail for their policies. Hope we all live that long.

Baltic said...

``But, how did JL's education, health care, local government consolidation, EU investment fund spending policies et al differ from TP's back in 2006 when we were all faced with an election?``

My simple answer is that things would have developed simply different. In a broad sense It is ahistoric to argue now, how things would have turned out, if...:)

Nevertheless, the problem of almost ALL Latvian parties is that they pay very little attention to their ideological stance, and that is leading them astray...When it is combined with the relatively large win at the elections (LC in 5th Saeima, TP in the 7th, and JL in the 8th), it makes the winning party to take the whole responsibiliy and automatically excludes the coalition partners (classical zero sum game). And then it triggers the party political intrigues, and unfortunately then there are no BROAD STATE interests left...:(

Such system has operated so far, and I only hope that the present crisis (that should deepen this winter) would finally make latvian politicians to realize, that continuation of the habitual zero sum game of latvian politics leads the country into abyss, and thus would change their behavior patterns?

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