Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Latvian Potemkin village

Yesterday habitually followed election results in Japan and Germany in order to keep me up to date with political events in world's leading export led economies. Results from the three German Länder (Sachsen, Thüringen and Saarland), except somewhat unexpectedly good results of Oscar Lafontaine and his Left Alliance, were predictable and gave a signal about the possible end of the German present grand coalition after federal elections at the end of the September 2009. The crashing end of the half a century rule of liberal democrats in Japan, however, was rather significant and bears several similarities with the present political situation in Latvia. The Liberal democratic party (LibDem) was a roof organization for several political groupings that kept together the conservative party of power. It was done in rather peculiar way and corruption scandals were a constant phenomenon in the country of rising sun. The LibDem party of power could manage their affairs well during the Cold War era, when Japanese economy booming, but the end of the Cold War and the rise of Chinese rival set in new realities for the Japanese policy makers. Basically the victory of Japanese Democratic party emulates events in South Korea back in 2000. The vigilance of the S-Korean civil society resulted in the black list of corrupt politicians and pushed a way for democratic reforms in the political culture of South Korea.
The vigilance of the Latvian civil society is constantly tested by new disclosures. The magnitude and number of abuse of power is thus great that sometimes there is a feeling that the civil society has given up on prudent change in Latvia. It is ominous that new political parties are crystallising out of the present political mess. Within liberal circles and some utterly base politicians (Aivars Lembers, Mareks Seglins) show their contempt for new political formations, but I am sure that they really do not UDERSTAND, how representative democracy should work for country to stay sustainable at the end! Politicians and top notch civil servants disdain for the rule of law is omnipresent and I would write about the role and peculiarities of Latvian burgeoned civil service in one of my next blog entries.
At the same time the Latvian Potemkin village continues to survive. The name Potemkin village dates back to the end of the 18th century, when the Russian autocrat Catherine II was fooled during the Russian military campaigns in Crimea by her trusted underlings in order to boost their rankings in the royal entourage. Similar attitude of traditional rule just in a more robust way are performed in Latvia today. Just Latvian politicians and top notch civil servants do not have to build ghost villages, but have to pretend that behind the walls of nicely painted Riga ministries and agencies there is a real policy making going on while in reality they participate in the reality show.
The present system is actually very simple. Contrary to numerous World Bank, European Commission and IMF recommendations the leaders of traditional parties, agencies, local municipalities and ministries (ill famous nomenclature) traditionally keep receiving hefty sums in bonuses and other means of gratitude while keeping the rest of the civil service on "diet" while sometimes throwing some "glittery chunk" (ill famous end of the year bonuses) to some of them. This traditional system kept perpetuating itself and now with the economic bubble burst the members of the nomenclature cannot agree on traditional rules of the game because there is not enough financial means. Some critique could remind me that the present 7,5 billion euro mega loan would be also squandered among the hungry Latvian cleptocrats as my colleague Janis Berziņš calls them. Yea, possibly so and only history would tell us how the money was spent, and that history would speak pretty soon, because Latvian political landscape is being reconfigured right at this moment.
At the end there is mush to do in order to turn the Latvian Potemkin ministries and agencies (please forgive me the generalization, because I know that rather many civil servants are devoted and patriotic working bees regardless of their incompetent and morally corrupt bosses) to work like the units of public administration. The process of overhauling the work of traditional nomenclature is not easy, and I am afraid that there is know-how and counter-balancing help from Brussels corridors needed. Simply the Latvian Satversme (constitutution) is the hybrid of the Weimar defunct Konstitution and the third branch of government - the legal one does not help us much here. Yesterday, the TV3 station weekend program investigative journalists continued to search for truth of the way, how the head of the Latvian Supreme Court Ivars Bičkovičs got his Latvian citizenship. According to the TV3 and other media channels today, the administrative procedures were not followed, archival documents have miraculously perished, and granting Latvian citizenship to the present head of the Latvian Supreme Court was illegal!
After such allegations interesting political repercussions should follow. Either the present head of the Supreme Court should step down (be fired by the parliamentary vote) or the former head of the Naturalization department Madam Eiženija Aldermane must change her announcements now. It is very important, because the head of the Supreme Court is the official who would have to announce the nomination for the new Prosecutor General in couple of month time. Another political scandal is gradually being formed, huh, uhh...


lihgpoeurhgpiudbepf said...


You haven't responded to my emails. Are you coming to the conference or not?

Gareth Dale

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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