Time before elections is special and it cannot be truer in Latvia this year. The public opinion can be changed by internal implosion or endogenous pressure, and numerous events of the last three years facilitated reevaluation of some Latvian citizens’ comprehension about democratic citizenship. I am optimistic enough and believe that only if my compatriots would dare to dream better future could be ensured for Latvia. There have been several studies and ongoing investigations about the sorry state of the Latvian political culture. Analysis of past deeds requires looking back into the past, but already G.F.Hegel ominously concluded that: „the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from it”. Thus, to avoid such propensity I have decided to look forward, and to paraphrase words from Martin Luther King I want to exclaim - dare to dream Latvian citizens!
I believe that the lack of humor in political discourse and artificial seriousness of the Latvian present political class in reality is a mask of inferiority complex. Those holding office would have to deal with their complexes themselves, and equally importantly it should not deter the rest of citizenry from joy of living, making fun, and dreaming!
Comfortable coach en route from Tallinn to Riga actually lulled me into a dream world a weak ago and I wanted to share it with my readers because of its positive undercurrent. Here goes: I saw the time prior to October 2, with all its major competitors. Predictions of sociologists and polls were right in predicting six major political unions contesting the battle, but at the end leaving only four largest winners. The campaign was fierce and there was plenty of mud slinging on Youtube and the TV brainwashing campaign was massive. Fortunately the festering cleavage between ethnic Latvians and Russians political parties became a nuisance and instead the political campaign centered on the second cleavage – the one between democratic and illiberal political forces.
September 2010 transformed the distrust among ethnic groups in Latvia because even though Union of Greens and Farmers was elected into the parliament Latvia got its first grand coalition consisting from Unity and Harmony Centre political unions. Opinions had to be reconciled within the Unity political group where traditional vision shortsightedly equated any leftist party with the Fifth Column of the former Metropolis. After that reciprocal statements from both political unions followed ensuring the wish to work for the benefit of all Latvians. Voters were convinced that for res publica to survive in long term and living standards to rise in foreseeable future Latvian middle class cannot support voracious lifestyle of self made oligarchic families anymore.
Major businessmen pouring ludicrous sums of monies into treasuries of the oligarchic parties gave a clear signal to Unity and Harmony Center voters about special interests and continued practice of state capture. However, without being elected their campaign financing disappeared into chimney of spin doctors’ mind boggling games. The agreement between two largest political forces came under leadership of Unity political group who entrusted Harmony Center government responsibility on equitable basis, and the head of the budget committee was entrusted to the representative of Greens and Farmers in order to break the antiquated tradition of emasculating opposition.
The coalition council served as a reform body which designed overhaul of antiquated Latvian governance and tax system. Thus, agreement right after elections was reached to introduce the mandatory tax declaration system and real estate amnesty law. Economists of two party groups agreed on rising real estate tax, and alleviating labor from excessive tax burden. The solution to the household debt was found and euro debts were converted into Latvian currency, and Latvian Development bank was founded to jumpstart Latvian small and medium size businesses. The cabinet returned to the principles of lean government, and comprehensive and universal remuneration system ensured corporate independence of the civil service system with principles of meritocracy finally institutionalized.
Political parties henceforth listened to academic representatives and ensured balanced development of body politics with timely legal amendments. Higher education reform established initially four public universities with later founding of the European center of academic excellence in Latvia with constantly increasing number of foreign students. Prosecutor General Office merged with Corruption Prevention Bureau and the new Prosecutor General after 2010 general elections after general reconciliation among political representatives issued arrest warrant to couple of most inconsiderate leaders of oligarchic clans.
Participation of Harmony Center in grand coalition allowed the Unity parties to discard unnecessary framing of Kremlin scare and pragmatically approach business opportunities in Russia. Eviction of obstacles to economic development fostered reconciliation among Latvian ethnic communities and the responsibility of being in the government made Harmony Center staunch supporters of the EU and NATO membership.
Latvia established not only its mediator’s role between the EU and Russia, but also became the world center of green energy and forestry studies. Passing the law on financing political parties from the state budget and establishing comprehensive campaign limits allowed think tanks of the political parties to pop up, and constitutive parties of the Unity and Harmony Center political unions gradually transformed into classical conservative, liberal, social democratic and green political forces.
And as for all the dreams also my bus from Tallinn had reached Riga bus terminal and I woke up to Latvian reality. But wait a minute, I contemplated again: “such dream scenario is actually possible only if Latvian politicians and voters would be courageous enough and dare to see alternative visions!”
P.S. Originally this article appeared in the Baltic Times September 9 edition
P.P.S. For Estonian readers here is my latest article in Postimees