Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 90th anniversary and future political games

Celebrations of the Latvian 90th anniversary are ongoing. Military parades outside Riga, festive speeches and historic reflections would culminate today. The early morning parade of Latvian student societies, fraternities, and sororities traditionally went to commemorate Latvian heroes to the Cemetery of Brothers in Arms. This parade was followed with the symbolic laying of flowers at the podium of the Freedom Monument in Riga. The special Saeima session convened in the National theatre, in the very spot the Independence was proclaimed ninety years ago. The picture above is the only picture made during that historic event and the author of this photo is Vilis Rīdzenieks. The original photo is black and white and to commemorate this historic material evidence also a short movie was made, and it will be shown on Latvian TV today.

The anniversary will be continued with the military parade, presidential reception and fireworks. Traditional and wholesome celebration one may assume, but to many Latvian citizens (including me) there is a feeling, that not everything has been done to properly celebrate the 90th anniversary of the republic. There is the first victim of interplay between the lack of proper regulation and international financial crisis in Latvia, when the government was forced to take over the second biggest bank in Latvia. Several experts speculate that right after the independence day celebrations several smaller Latvian banks could follow the suit of Parex Bank, and then the question is whether the Latvian government will guarantee also the smaller banks? There was no reserve fund created during the years of spectacular economic growth in Latvia, thus the government would be forced to slim its administration.

The 2009 budget was passed in the second reading with the 1,5% GDP deficit, while the PM and the Minister of Finance stipulated, that they would start correcting the budget in order to balance it in the early 2009 after the 2008 data on economic growth in Q4 would be known. While budget was hastily amended (just 1,5 weeks prior passing it in the parliament the fiscal deficit of the 2009 budget was planned at 1,87% ), rumours about possible party political realignments intensified, thus enabling also cartoonists to sarcastically reflect on the anniversary.

Text in Latvian: GASOLINE - Only today a special price for the Latvia's 90th Anniversary!

Cartoon: Gatis Šļūka

There is ongoing debate about the dire straits of the ruling Peoples party (TP), that does not have neither the post of the PM nor the Maire's office in the City of Riga. Latvian ruling parties traditionally have built their winning strategies prior municipal and parliamentary elections from the position being in power. To achieve their goal TP needs to achieve favourable coalition government prior the Latvian municipal elections in June 2005. The TP new leader and the Minister of Interior Mr Mareks Segliņš announced that he would not mind taking the opposition Reconciliation Party (SC) into the new governing coalition.

we take Riga...

I guess that this is simply testing the grounds for rather simple plan to start the remodelling of the existing coalition governments from the Riga municipality. In Latvian micro state almost half of the Latvian population resides in the Riga metropolitan area. Thus, similarly to other small states (Estonia or Iceland) whenever there are changes on the national level they also trigger changes on the level of the biggest municipality.

Preparations for the change in the Riga Major's office has started, because also transport supremo Šlesers is interested in this post. He is so much interested in this post that allowed himself a frivolity to retort to journalist question, whether chances of the present MEP Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (Citizens Union) to become the new maire of Riga are good, as simply negligent...(«Nav vērts izteikties par tiem, kuriem nav nekādas izredzes vadīt Rīgu.»)

My hunch is that the TP is interested to get the Maire's office prior elections in the June 2009. It has been rumoured that the Riga Vice Maire Andris Ārgalis (typical Soviet hozaistvennik) is keen to assume that post. TP has nine seats in the Riga municipality now, while SC has seven, the First and Latvian Way Party union (LPP) eight, and Social Democrats (LSDSP) have five seats. In order to trigger the fall of the present Maire of Riga Mr Jānis Birks (Fatherland Party-TB/LNNK) TP leaders must appease Social democrats and RC party with positions that are lucratively enough. If they achieve that then they can with their present partners from the LPP form the thirty one seat majority in the sixty member Riga City Council. If they would feel that 31 seat majority is too scanty, then they can always count on the four mavericks from the Motherland Party (Dzimtene) and Socialists Union.

and Latvia after it...

If such plan would work out TP would achieve thus needed bridgehead position and administrative resources prior the 2009 municipal elections. It could possibly trigger the fall of the present governing coalition. It has been rumoured that president Zatlers would nominate the incumbent PM again, and the TP would actually be happy with such a turn of events. Overcoming the hardest economic crisis is entrusted to the crisis manager Ivars Godmanis, and thus it is assumed that all the blame in public relations sphere would be transferred to LPP. Also it could allow to take SC into government, because there is not enough lucrative positions on the municipal level. In this case the parties that would fall into disgrace would be TB/LNNK and the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS). The number of TP (21), SC(18), and LPP(10) seats is enough now to have a new minority coalition in the 100 member Saeima, and if some of the PCTVL MP's would be co opted, then they could even have a slight majority.

It could officially report the death knell for the TB/LNNK parliamentary representation. TP would get rid of the ZZS, that they are unhappy with due to disagreements on the territorial administrative reform ,and due to the Maire of Ventspils ambivalent role in today's distribution of government perks. Also it could allow TP to swing into the race for the 2010 parliamentary elections. Allowing leftist SC in the government TP could traditionally blame the LPP premier and leftist SC for all the ills somewhere after the 2010 Midsummer. Thus, it would allow TP together with the opposition right wing parties (JL, PS, SCP) to propose somewhere around this time to form a "genuine" right wing coalition TP-21, JL-14, ZZS-17 and with their PM candidate (Kristiāna Lībane - Šķēle) to prepare for the 10th Saeima elections.

This is just my speculation which could be achieved if we assume that the major actors of the political field are static. First, it will be outcome of the European Parliament and the municipal elections that would determine the relative balance of political forces prior the October 2010. Second, the, international economy is an intervening variable that could trigger activation of the civil society and fostered role of the opposition parties. The present situation looks rather uncertain with the global recession hitting the Latvian economy hard. The potential for the clean-up of the Latvian political system looks promising while looking from the perspective of the formative events at the end of the 2008 however. The choice is simple - to reform the post-Soviet education, political and economic structures or to become a murky dependency relying on the Russian oil and mineral resources transit commissions. I still hope in capacity of the Latvian people to change their thinking patterns and to proudly celebrate the Latvian 100th anniversary just ten years from now.

P.S. Those of you reading in Latvian can read a piece I wrote in Diena today.


Anonymous said...

Lai dzivo Latvija!!!

Hei Veiko, 6nnitlused L2ti Vabariigi 90 aastapaeva puhul.


Baltic said...

Taenud, ja loodame et LV elab ka 100 aastapaevni! Oled ikka veel Kariibi saarestikus:)

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