Yesterday evening the Latvian LNT TV station had an unexpected talk show with all but one former primer ministers present, and Andris Bērziņš busy preparing for elections. My colleague Iveta Kažoka in her blog spared my time to immediately write my contemplations about the program in Latvian. The central question of the show was - what Latvia should do? - as if Latvia would be some kind of abstract entity, and it would not have basic mechanisms of state governance. The most active speakers were former prime ministers from the People's Party (PP). Other ministers chirped out some ideas as well, but somewhat miraculously central theme of the whole emission became - whether the future Latvian government should exercise emergency powers and resort to the vertical of power!
The odious Art. 81 allowed the Cabinet to exercise legislative powers while parliament was in recess. This article was rid from the Latvian Constitution after Aigars Kalvītis government tried to perform shadow coup d'etat at the end of 2006 with the secretive changes in the law of security organizations. Yesterday, it was the incumbent Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis who assumed that without resorting to the Art. 81, and endowing Latvian executive with legislative powers, there is no chance for the Valdis Dombrovskis future cabinet to solve the challenges Latvia is facing right now. There were only two ministers - Guntars Krasts & Einārs Repše - who objected to return of the Art. 81.
The anchor of the program could not really moderate the discussion thus former prime ministers' diatribes were unbearable for most of the time. Former PM Valdis Birkavs had an idee fixe that 80% of the Latvian civil servants should be given unpaid leave until the mess with the bloated Latvian government is solved. Also representing his own construction lobby, he believed that the only right solution for Latvia getting out of the present dire straits is propping up the construction business. Moderator paid undue "attention" to the proposed Minister of Finance in the future government, Mr Einārs Repše. He asked him and other PM's whether Latvian monetary authorities should not unilaterally decide about the Latvian currency switched over to euro? All former PM's agreed that stability of the Latvian currency is the prerequisite for leading Latvia out of the present economic swamp. Around the middle of the show the moderator asked the key question - what the former eight prime ministers considered their faults for having Latvia now on the verge of bankruptcy?
Einārs Repše tried to argue that probably he was too offensive with his onslaught on the Latvian corrupt networks and probably overestimated his personal powers, thus had to give in to the government of Indulis Emsis. Aigars Kalvītis and Andris Šķēle were drumming the same tambourine, and believed that they had been too mild in giving in to the requests of the trade unions. Other than that, those gentlemen did not find a single fault (!) in their performance. Such issues as the rule of law and personal responsibility simply did not appear in that discussion. The personal willpower and extreme form of technocratic approach to problems was omnipresent, thus "Latvian self proclaimed political elite members" came to conclusion that if there would not been the coalition "cow trading" their work would have been a lot more easier whilst having possibility to resort to emergency powers. Thus much about the traditional cognisance of democracy among six (!) former prime ministers in Латвия... .
I never had any hopes about any of the Latvian AAA team ministers. At least there is a flicker of hope about the future cabinet being able to lead the country in one piece until the early elections. The trust in democratic regime among Latvian populace was lost very much due to the same authoritarian prime ministers exercising their power unaccounted. The results are not far to look after, because latest polls show that about a quarter of the Latvian population would better prefer authoritarian dictator than party democracy in Latvia... . The quarter of population is probably the same that does not want to take part in elections, that monthly sociological pollsters regularly show us.
The new government should be voted in the parliament the coming Thursday. The new government still does not have the candidate for the minister of culture. At least the opposition New Era (NE) party seems like playing the chicken game, because they announced about reevaluation of the formerly signed agreements about super-expensive construction of the National Library. PP has not openly opposed this announcement, but the former ministers of health and education have voiced their doubts about taking their posts in the future government, because according to them additional 20% budget cuts (in addition to the -15% initiated already in January 2009) are too drastic. However, the IMF and EU conditionality is a good mechanism, because monies are not disbursed until requested agreements are reached. Previously mentioned ministers and PP party should understand, that if they would undermine the Valdis Dombrovskis formed cabinet they would pull also themselves into the dustbin of history. Thus, I consider the PP leadership frantic holding to the demand for control over the EU structural fund cash flows as sign of extreme weakness of that party (apparently they do not have neither human resources nor funds, if they plan to propose Ms Anta Rugāte for the Culture Minister post). The Valdis Dombrovskis formed government would have several priorities to perform in order to reignite the frozen Latvian economy. But before that, lets wait for the Thursday vote in the parliament. And while waiting for the vote, you may perceive the prevailing mood among the Latvian public about the bacchanalia's of the former government through another poignant cartoon of Gatis Šļūka.
Text in Latvian: [Men in Red hat]: Where is the booze? It was a hard and unpopular decision.