Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Latvian slow motion reality continues

Yes, Valdis Zatlers had his speech which he left for history to judge. As it was already predicted by the very pollster on the right side of this page and also some pundits, it was inconsequential and full of contradictions! In slow motion he reminded examples of misuse of power by "the former governing class" that led to the riots on Riga streets in January 13, 2009, but gave no personal evaluation of those events. Instead of pinpointing what kind of compromises were achieved to move on from the present fragile stability president had really nothing else to offer except, "God bless Latvia" ("Dievs svētī Latviju"). Indeed, Valdis Zatlers acknowledged that most of the requirements from the list of his January 14 speech have been met. Thus, I translated major points that were brought up by Mr Zatlers and added my own comments:
1) "new coalition government is working with the 2/3 support in the parliament [but he acknowledged earlier in his speech that the parliament is supported by 4% of the population only, thus I should ask Mr Zatlers team - where is speech writer's common sense???]. Government enjoys higher level of trust (!) compared to the previous government [reaching the same scanty 17%, common, do not turn yourselves into laughingstock]. It is very important for passing decisions that are unpopular but required;
2) Latvian electoral law is amended and the so called "electoral locomotives" would not help MP's with questionable qualities coming into the parliament. In addition legislation preventing organized crime is finally incorporated into the Criminal Code;
3) parliament finally accepted [but the procedure to choose the new head was utterly murky, although politicians agreed on following transparent and understandable rules of the game] the new head of the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB);
4) plan for stimulating economy [there are numerous plans in Latvia, but what is lacking is political will to implement them in their fullness] is accepted in the government and the state administration reform was started. Remuneration caps were established for state and municipal employees, and also most of the state company politicized boards were liquidated;
5) The parliamentary commission that oversees the use of international financial aid has also included independent financial experts, members of State Audit Office, the Bank of Latvia and other institution members. This commission must make sure that the borrowed billions in loans would be used legally and efficiently [I really would like to see that!].
6) Constitutional amendments proposed in the referendum of August 2008 which provided for a qualified number of electorate to initiate the process of early elections were finally passed in the second reading of the Parliament a week ago. The parliamentary majority plans to pass these amendments in the final third reading on April 8, 2009."
President Zatlers called for the unity and asked people to associate ourselves with "our" not "that" state. Such appeal sounded more of a cheap rhetoric, because while the problems were brewing from 2004-2008 the same politicians who elected the President Zatlers called members of civil society as mere canines [kvaukšķi]. It is ironic that now, when taxpayers monies are wasted in the former governments mismanaged casino economy, the President is forced to ask for reconciliation among the political classes in Latvia. President appealed to government and the parliament: first, that negotiations with the IMF should be finalized properly, second, structured help of Latvian businesses, third, that minimum social welfare programs should be implemented when times turn out really harsh, and finally, the political climate should be changed in Latvia.
The last appeal sounded extremely ironic, and I must repeat what I already said before: how come you may achieve the rape victim trusting her/his rapist again? For reconciliation to happen after the People's Party, First/Latvian Way Party Union & Union of Greens and Farmers massively transgressed the law, time would be needed. Early elections would have been the the most appropriate and orderly way to try to heal the wounds, that the former/present governing elite tore into the Latvian body politics, but it seems that the Latvian presidential family was not ready enough for such a development yet.
Regardless of latest political achievements the stability in Latvia is very fragile. TV3 hostess Baiba Sipeniece correctly pinpointed that the saddest part of the whole presidential memorandum saga is due to the fact, that Latvian present political "elite" endemically does not know to manage routine policy implementation process. Unless there is no stick, they are not prone to move their backs, and when there are presidential memorandums they cry out foul about president being authoritarian who delivers ultimatums.
The problem is, however, that the special breed of post-Soviet politicians was designed for such behaviour, because they are used to work under traditional authority (hence the almost 23% of Latvian electorate craving for dictatorship) only. Until traditional authority (ill famous AAA team) would continue to spread its influence I do not foresee substantial improvement in Latvian administrative capacity. Two issues should be on the top of the agenda now for the Latvian parliament - the mandatory tax declaration system, and amendments in electoral law, thus finally political parties would be financed from the state budget! Without those two laws minigarchic families would continue to have their inordinate influence and consolidation of the Latvian political society would not take place.
At the end Zemgus in today's Diena already foresaw the outcome of the speech. It is the final day of March, and the next deadline is the June 6, when municipal and European Parliament elections should take place in Latvia.

Text in Latvian: Latvian PM Dombrovskis, Minister of Finance Repše holding on & President ["I will not pull the hand brake, because..."]


Anonymous said...

It s ok with amendments to electoral law.

But I do not wand my money audited by declaration. This how I see: goverment wants to squeeze every last penny out of Latvians to finance failures of their ancestors. I am aware of increasing percentige of gray economy in Latvia, but fu*k it! I ain t gone pay for their mistakes.

Nelielrīdziniece said...

"Two issues should be on the top of the agenda now for the Latvian parliament /...../ amendments in electoral law, thus finally political parties would be financed from the state budget!"

Veiko, what specific measures are you proposing to ensure that parties do not merely add state funding of political parties to the melnā kase supplied by the oligarchs? There is simply no way that I would support state funding of parties *unless* transparency is ensured, as well as giving KNAB the muscle to enforce sanctions against legal violations as they occur *during* an election campaign. This requires changes probably to several laws, which should be drafted by...an NGO? Which one? I don't know the answers, but we have plenty of experience with laws adopted unanimously by parties, which then blithely violate them once they're enacted.

Wannabe Sorosieši said...


Perhaps drafted by Delna or Providus in cooperation with LPA.

Nelielrīdziniece said...

Wannabe, I have no idea how you meant me to take your comment. But - though in vague terms LPA has talked about liking the idea of a 2nd palate, is there anyone associated with LPA who knows anything at all about funding political parties or electoral laws? About the latter I know a great deal, and over the course of the last 5+ years I've come to realize that it's not a subject that more than a handful of people in Rīga have even an elementary knowledge.

The point of my initial comment somewhat echoes Veiko's last blog entry on "Diena." LV's functionaries shouldn't be attempting to invent the wheel. But that appears to be their modus operandi. When it comes to laws related to elections I honestly believe that help needs to be found abroad from specialists who understand what mechanisms need to be put in place to achieve the desired end goal. In LV's case, implementation probably does mean examining multiple, seemingly unrelated laws. It's certainly clear to me from the stenogrammas related to electoral law that our representatives are utterly incapable of doing this, or even formulating what they intend to achieve.

It absolutely should not be expected that bloggers come up with extensive project plans for any legal changes they think desirable. But, especially if the subject is state-funded parties - a subject quite dear to the hearts of *all* the oligarch-controlled parties - then, I really do think care has to be taken to define exactly what that means. As I mentioned elsewhere on politika.lv - the devil is in the details.......

Wannabe Sorosieši said...


I wasn't trying to challenge you.

You talked about LPA but did not address the Delna/Providus suggestion. Any reason why not? Remember that LPA is an umbrella group and drags in an interesting array of interests and specialties. I cannot honestly say that I know someone with such a specialty, but you never know. And, I think that non-specialty insight/input is needed to shape any conversation. We tend to allow specialists to drive the conversation, whereas I think it better to use specialists like plumbers.

What do you post as on politika.lv?

Tom Schmit

Nelielrīdziniece said...

Wannabe, you asked:

" You talked about LPA but did not address the Delna/Providus suggestion. Any reason why not?"

There's already a non-profit (which may be a considered an ngo, I'm not sure of its specific status, though it's certainly a lobby) called Vēlēšanu reforma biedrība (http://www.velref.lv/) that members of Delna and Providus, who have knowledge about and/or an interest in electoral reform, either belong to or are considered consultants to it. This is a citizens' initiative - protams apsveicams! Surely, we don't need another ngo or a reversion to Delna or Providus, neither of which has any especial knowledge of electoral law.

While I do realize that I'm knowledgeable about electoral law, I'm by no means an 'experta' (oh, how I hate that overused & overblown dēvējums in LV.....). But, it bothers me tremendously that with my limited knowledge I can come up with questions and objections that apparently haven't been raised before. In regard to changes in the electoral law, there's never been a lack of "non-specialty insight/input" since 1995. Everyone seems quite ready to come up with and lobby for his/her favorite variant of proportional representation, whether that's tweaking the current list system, changing to STV or to a mixed system. But what I rarely find in discussions in LV is even a basic understanding of how the components of any electoral law interact and affect the outcome. Recently, I had a house guest from Luxembourg (paldies Veiko par iepazīšanos! :))) with whom it was possible to have an intelligent discussion. What a pity that she doesn't currently live in LV. Regardless: I still believe an electoral design specialist outside of LV should be reviewing any serious proposals to alter the current electoral law. A genuine proposal - t.i., apjomīgais pakets - that takes into account all aspects and all relevant laws would be even better, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

"What do you post as on politika.lv?"

Nelielrīdziniece . There are other posts, too, but here's the one I could find on the fly (which did lead to an interesting private dialogue) : http://www.politika.lv/blogi/index.php?id=61111

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