Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mandatory tax and property declaration (Updated)

FINALLY after two decades of ongoing debates and painstaking foot dragging the Latvian parliamentary majority has managed to pass thus significant law on mandatory tax and property declaration by unanimous vote! It happened exactly eighteen and seventeen years later than in Estonia and Lithuania. I will elaborate in detail on this important legal innovation during upcoming weekend, but until then Latvian Internal Revenue Service can finally start preparing to operate in an environment when they have a legal basis for prosecuting oligarchic or minigarchic crooks in earnest:)

P.S. Here is the latest Latvijas Fakti pollster about the popularity of the Latvian political parties


Gatis Šļūka

(Lady) "We are absolutely zeroes (nerds)...
(Man) "No. We do not have to submit the zero declaration (mandatory tax and property declaration).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Emergency elections over and referendum forthcoming (updated)

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 The effective travails of the government and the parliament will determine whether the structure of the outdated infrastructure of public services will be finally transformed.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!"

Gatis Šļūka


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."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lack of consistent policies after September 17 elections

After the September 17 snap elections the electorate is literally boiling in Latvia. The major reason for Valdis Zatlers to sack the parliament and to form his own party was the questıon of rule of law and elimination of LV oligarchy (particularly pay attention to the second & third paragraph!). Ever since the perplexing announcement last Friday night the Latvian electorate has been split in two. The reason for the split of the public opinion is not only the outdated perception of the Latvian electorate to see the politics to be divided between ethnically defined parties (which was catered by the political parties in power for the last 20 years), but also the sudden change of the list of major tasks right after the elections.

Change of the discourse after elections happens to minimum degree in many consolidated democracies. In case of Valdis Zatlers the discourse turnaround has been complete, because he pronounced the reforms of the outdated higher education system, tax code and governance modes as well as the fight against the oligarchs even on the election billboards ( see below). Since last Saturday it is barely possible to hear about reforms and ending of the IMF&EU financial aid mission or the 2012 budget, because Valdis Zatlers change of tack has enabled him to court openly with the representatives of the same party he was supposedly to stand against. It has disoriented groups of voters, and the result of such disorientation is clear, because less than month after elections 1/3 of those questioned would not vote for the party they voted barely three weeks ago, again... .

It is certain coul de sac situation now and lets hope that Valdis Dombrovksis could help the former president out from the corner he has painted himself, and return either to the status quo ante, or move into the direction of all inclusive rainbow coalition government:) It was just announced that the rainbow coalition talks have failed, thus there should be return to status quo ante... Bringing in the Harmony Center party into coalition negotiations is welcome only after ZRP and Unity have agreed on reform package and formed the nucleus of the governing coalition. After solving disagreements about certain misunderstandings in the package deal it is possible to move on with the third partner. The president has announced the deadline, and lets hope that the common sense will win and lead the Latvian electorate out of these dire straits! Hopefully the ZRP and Unity would move on and find the most qualified third partner to finish thus needed political and economic reforms before the looming world economic crisis hits hard in early 2012.





51 VOTE TOGETHER WITH UNION OF GREENS AND FARMERS AND FOR GOOD LATVIA IN 10TH SAEIMA (But with the Janis Urbanovitch (Harmony Center) on the background of the billboard)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Volatility of the Latvian political system (UPDATED)

2011 snap elections are over and my first try to get elected into the parliament was not successful. The coalition negotiations are ongoing and tough and I will elaborate on the results of previously mentioned processes more in my next blog entries. This time I am republishing a chart which clearly outlines volatility of the Latvian party political system, because every elections since regaining the independence in 1991 undecided swing voters have been migrating to the new party:)

Source: Dienas Bizness

P.S. Here are my first and second takes about LV politics in Estonian.
P.P.S. And here is my week old piece for Maaleht (in Estonian)


Here is the composition of the 11th Saeima before the new cabinet is in place, which means that 13 ministers most probably would be replaced with the MP's with a soft mandate.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Would they understand it? (UPDATED)

Emergency elections are approaching and my campaign intensity is increasing. The last two weeks will be hopefully less hectic due to the planned strategy of pinpointing the electioneering areas. After 17.09.2011 coalition government will be formed, and I am wondering whether average Latvian voters have comprehended consequences of the possible union between the Harmony Center and UGF party and stalling of economic reforms?

Source: IR


Wikileaks has provided very interesting leaks about events worldwide and Latvia has not been an exception. Those who want to understand how the Parex affair was built read this. And thanks to Nellija Ločmele there is ample of information about the formative events in Latvia from 2007 - 2009 here and here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pollsters prior 17.09.2011

Here you have "Latvijas fakti" pollster showing the latest trends. Pollsters are tricky business, because different polling firms in Latvia do show different results. I have sticked to "Latvijas Fakti" and SKDS, because they are traditional and they do show certain trends. The most obvious one is the number of undecided or swing voters and as you can see the number has declined from 35% down to 31.3%. However, there is still some way to go and the most successful of the contenders will get the biggest chunk of those 20.7% voters who simply do not know whom they are going to vote for. Also, except the insignificant pocket parties four of the most realistic contenders for getting into the Saeima - Unity, Harmony Center, Union of Greens and Farmers, and National Alliance - are showing the trend of growth. The Zatlers Reform Party support has slightly declined due to the questionable emulation of the tradition of showing who the prime ministerial candidate will be. Lets see the polls next week to grasp the dynamics of election campaign in the simultaneously transforming Latvian party political system.