Saturday, February 27, 2010

New polling trends in Latvia?

After rather lengthy period decided to drop some line in this blog. Reasons for my absence from this medium is my primary duty - my dissertation research. The latter proceeds accordingly and as soon I am done with the first draft I would be back & writing in this blog.

The reason for my decision to drop the line today are the latest results of the ''Latvijas Fakti(LF)'' polling firm. Already month ago the LF results were showing shifts in trend that started in the Latvian political realm since March 2007. Since March 2007, when the former president Vaira Vike Freiberga vetoed the law on security organizations and the Major of Ventspils was incarcerated, the disappearance of credibility for governing authority started to prevail in Latvian political realm. Very much due to constellation of political forces and inexperience of nascent civil society the president did not manage calling for early elections, and it only enforced the prevailing trend.

I have had quite a few colleagues who have pointed out to the fact that LF information sometimes lacks trustworthiness. I basically agree with such comments and while working with the Eurobarometer 2004-2009 biannual reports I also notices general sloppiness of LV reports in comparison with Lithuanian or Estonian ones. It is another discussion why was it so, and who are major culprits for LV Eurobarometer reports being inconsistent, but now back to the LF latest report.
The latest LF report shows continuous trend of growing support for the russophone Harmony Center party (18.5%), but the report specifically focuses on the increase of support (9.1%) for the Union of Greens and Farmers (UGF). Basic argument here is that UGF has been opposing the administrative reform of Latvian regional governments, and probably there is some grain of truth here. I am more interested on the change of prevailing trend however. And the trend of decline for almost all domestic governing institutions (government, parliament, political parties, court system) is vividly exposed in Eurobarometer 2001-2009 reports. The DnB Barometer trend also reports the decline of governing authority and embedded pessimism among the Latvian demos. But here is my figure which I updated this morning. Basically and using the LF publicly available data I have distinguished between three underlying ''forces'' in the Latvian party politics. I added the support for the governing coalition parties, the opposition parties are put together with other parties who have no representation in the parliament, and I have added also the number of undecided and alienated voters as entity of their own.

The latest two (January and February) LF reports show a positive shift in an overwhelmingly negative worldview of the Latvian public. Edward Lucas in his latest Economist article also argues about ''green shoots'' of the Latvian statecraft. Probably Latvia has hit the bottom of economic decline and the situation has initially stabilized. The Eurobarometer shows that Estonia in almost all measurements have reached the EU mean average level, and while Latvia and Lithuania are lagging behind. It somehow reminded also the speech of Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis during the Riga 2009 Conference. In his speech he drew analogies between the simultaneous group of countries of East Asia and the Baltic States (3B), while specifically pointing out that while Estonian development could turn out like South Korean one for the two Southernmost Baltic states the lot of Philippines could fall out... .
For the sake of argument I have also added some latest graphs from Eurobarometer. It is hard to predict whether the stabilization in Latvia would hold for long, because it very much depends on the present government to deliver balanced policies. However, if one analyzes the latest data on predictions about employment opportunities in their nation state, then it is possible to discover that while Estonians look optimistically forward and Lithuanians are increasingly pessimists, those are Latvians who have ''stabilized'' their formerly negative predictions.

Furthermore, the ability of government to deliver consensual and balanced policies very much depends on the ability of Latvian democratic forces to present viable economic development program that would help Latvia to climb itself out from the present pit of mismanagement. The ability of democratic forces to find consensus under the label ''Unity'' is promising and the political union would hold its founding congress in Riga on March 6, 2010. Lets wait for the congress and see whether the present stabilization would be cemented, and how the policies for reversal of deindustrialization would be laid out.

P.S. Here is the link to my latest piece in the Baltic Times (TBT).
P.P.S. For the sake of records here is the January TBT article, my latest ''Postimees'' article, and the December TBT article.