Monday, October 20, 2008

Who´s in charge in Latvija?

One of deficiencies of the coalition rule is unstable government. Today´s Latvian society is tired of the transformation milieu and party political squabbles and it clearly reflects in Eurobarometer and other sociological polls. Legitimacy of the present democratic regime has declined to the record low levels. Society is also divided according to ethnic and socioeconomic lines. Yesterday the present Minister of Municipal Affairs (MNA) Edgars Zalans (TP) in the public TV emission outlined his realization about diversity of Latvian populace. While talking about the ongoing discussions what the MNA organizes all over Latvia about the new administrative territorial reform he said: ``that people in Kurzeme (Courland) want the consensus agreement and more self-government, while Latgale people crave for a strong leader who would show its subjects what to do.``

In Latvia such diverse political cultures clash when we discuss about the role of the central government. Unfortunately the discussion in Latvia always centres around personalities and seldom about the rule of law. Now it is almost a daily routine to hear that some civil servant from judicial, executive or legislative branch of the government is being charged by Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) or Internal Revenue Service (VID). Corruption plague is endemic and there are no quick remedies unfortunately. Ineffective remuneration system in the public service does not help here because the public remuneration system has become a nasty playground for party political fiefdoms to reap the public funds according to gangsta rules - your relative strength in the hierarchy of the coalition government determines how many bites from the common chop one gets...

The PM with his relatively meagre salary is trying to bring an order to the warring fractions within the government and I am afraid that it is mission impossible. Government announcements conflict, and, for example, Ministers of Transport and Economics came out with conflicting news just last week about the future strategy of the Latvian economic development. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is traditionally diplomatic, but in his speech in the party congress he could not avoid critique upon government he is very much part of plus he must arrange Latvian president's forthcoming visit to Moscow. The Latvian government today seems as if working behind the scenes.

When there is a need after joint actions with our NATO and EU allies then PM helps the president and flies down to Tbilisi (August 2008). Together with the Minister of Economics PM supports the building of the coal powered electricity plant, and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs there is an open support for joint action in order to lobby for the EU energy action plan vis-a-vis the three Baltic States. In the meantime his own party member (the Minister of Transport Mr Slesers) openly declares that Latvia is now safely member of the NATO and EU, and thus its should concentrate fully on reaping benefits from its geographical position and look towards embedded cooperation with the Latvian Eastern neighbor.

Also PM very quietly wants to have the best candidate for the directors position of KNAB. If he wants to avoid the party political squabbles then his intentions are laudable. However, any secrecy in the present situation is only doing damage to his public image. If Ivars Godmanis does not care about his public image, and his workaholic habits clearly attest to that, then so be it. But if he cares, and his weekly DJ performance on the radio SWH Rock airwaves and drumming qualities at the Queen concert in Riga attest to that, then he better start coordinating the policy making process and start juggling among the present coalition members because otherwise the coalition members will simply juggle him out of his post prior the cold winter sets in.

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