September 17, 2011 emergency elections are behind us and after rather eventful government formation process the new cabinet has managed to accomplish already quite some significant feats. Evaluation of the government work traditionally takes place after the first hundred days, thus proper assessment of the work of the government will come from the author of this blog during the first half of the February. Until then we will have to live through the metamorphosis of the Latvian political system due to the possible referendum (due to the signature collection campaign about the Russian as the second language in Latvia), because the Central Electoral Commission must announce their initial verdict during upcoming days. The effective travails of the government and the parliament will determine whether the structure of the outdated infrastructure of public services will be finally transformed. If it will give at least some tangible results then the newly opened disagreements on language policy would be probably mitigated.
Actually the outcome of signature collection campaign signifies that the 2013 March municipal elections campaign has virtually started. The political environment was unnecessarily shaken up and channeled into the national antagonism again. There were several factors at play, and one cannot deny that among major culprits for such a turn of events were actions of the National Alliance rushly initiating signature campaign during the Summer 2011, and which proposed overhauling the present policy of language instruction, and the Zatlers Reform Party puzzling behavior during the government formation process. It is essential now for the Valdis Dombrovskis government to focus on public policy issues and untangling the obscure Krājbanka ( Savings Bank), RVR, ABC & Antonov affair. The successful result of untangling this odious affair as well as embedding the rule of law and appointing the new head of the FKTK in the parliament will foster gradual recovery of trust in banks and also the democratic institutions among the Latvian public. Why do I sound thus optimistic during the times when the Eurozone is balancing on the verge of the brake-up, and there are many rogue regimes flexing their military muscles around the globe? Because I believe in rationality in of Europeans to solve their crisis, I believe that defense capabilities of the NATO provides enough deterrent to make the NATO and EU citizens to feel safe, and last but not least the Latvian citizenry are inherently willing to build their families in peaceful and happy atmosphere. Therefore, whilst following the precepts of Almond & Verba during the 1960-70's I believe that also Latvian politicians should spend more time on policy rather than polity issues, because too much tinkering about the democratic framework issues could create quite a political fallout...
Mme Latvia [handing over SACKING OF THE PARLIAMENT medicine]: "Those drugs you prescribed me doctor do not help because what I am feeling is, that I could even loose my [native] tongue"
The Doctor: "But we cured oligarch illness after all, madam!"
This morning IR announced that more than 170 000 signatures have been collected by the NGO "Native tongue" in order to proceed with the constitutional amendments and introduce the Russian as the second state language in Latvia. The signature collection campaign was supported by prominent opposition politicians, including the major of Riga, and it has reopened the animosity between the Latvian and Russophone speakers again.
For opposition populist politicians to galvanize their policies on language issue could be problematic, because legally to succeed in their efforts they have quite high hurdles established by the constitutional fathers of Latvia. After the Electoral Commission will announce official results of the signature collection campaign the constitutional amendments bill must go into the parliament, and knowing the balance between government and opposition forces the bill would definitely not pass over the 2/3 threshold. The Satversme (constitution) Art. 77 says that if articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 77 are proposed to be amended, then in order to take legal effect, any of them must be affirmed by a referendum. Because now the state language is Latvian (Art. 4), it means that such constitutional amendments could be adopted only, if at least one-half of those who have the right to vote have declared themselves in their favour (Art. 79). Today there are about 1,5 million eligible voters in Latvia, thus for the signature campaign organizers the task to overcome the 700-750 000 hurdle is simply insurmountable.
This makes me to conclude that the whole signature campaign and democratic activism of the opposition politicians was to went their frustration over the emergency elections results. The rush referendum of the National Alliance during the 2011 summer played its role and there have been several authors pointing to this fact, which triggered activism of the second signature campaign. It was not the only reason, however, because the Russian language issues are lately rather symptomatically popping up in the territory of the former USSR in concerted manner. Nevertheless, as I already stated the equivocal role of the ZRP party together with the ambivalent statements of the National Alliance party did not help to calm the situation down but quite the opposite.
After all I believe that the last signature collection campaign galvanized not only Russophone, but also Latvian speakers, and the referendum result shall deliver a clear cut result leaving the Article 4 unamended. And to conclude on this positive note I must quote Dmitry from today's Diena, who took the crux of the just finished signature collection campaign into the nutshell: "To tell you honestly I am against the second state language [Russian in Latvia], but I gave my signature against the initiatives of the National Alliance this summer, which would have forced all schools to instruct only in Latvian. In the forthcoming referendum he would not participate, because if he really thinks what matters, then there does not exist language problem in Latvia."