Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The list of corrupt politicians to be announced!

According to Apollo the list of allegedly corrupt politicians who received payments from the long lasting Major of Ventspils should be announced in October 30, 2010 less than two days prior formative parliamentary elections in Latvia.

This is truly great news because publishing of the list of politicians who were eating from hands of the first member of the notorious AAA team, to put it into local colloquial, could unravel the corrupt networks of former and existing nomenclature in the post independence Latvia, which have strangled Latvia's development for the last nineteen years.

Lets wait and see now!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Less than week to GO in Latvia

Just five days have left till formative national elections in Latvia. For the first time since the reestablishment of the independence the election law would be tested without the unjust "party locomotive" system. Also the poisonous cleavage between the ethnic Latvian and Russian communities have been subdued so far and the whole election campaign have centered around the second cleavage in the Latvian society - one between democratic and illiberal political party groups. The biggest spenders of this year's political campaign are the oligarchic group "For Good Latvia" whose constitutive elements face court's decision on November 3, 2010. The court should decide whether parties (People's party & Latvian First|Latvian Way party union) who illegally got elected into the parliament in 2006 should repay about EUR 2mlj. into the state treasury?

A huge scandal is brewing in the national airliner Air Baltic Corporation (ABC) because according to IR the minority shareholder Baltijas Aviācijas Sistēmas has received circa EUR 150 000 payment from the majority shareholder ABC for using Air Baltic brand names while head of both minority and majority shareholder is the same person - Bertold Flick. The whole affair with Air Baltic brand being sold under questionable circumstances without proper oversight looks like a scam again... particularly after Bertold Flick's sensational announcement about expanding down South and causing the PM to act.

It is hard to say now whether announcements from ABC are meant to divert attention from other questionable deals of the corruptocratic political party, however one thing is clear, the shenanigans from oligarchic parties have a lot to loose if they are acting thus brazenly prior the 2010 elections. Oligarchic parties have built their quasi-feudal fiefdoms for the last nineteen years under aegis of private capital accumulation, as one underling of the People's Party tried to explain me in one embassy reception last week. The person who is presently employed by Saeima did not trust my comments about private capital accumulation not necessary being equated with oligarchization and corruption in other European states, and honestly believed that odious Latvian AAA team has done everything (!) legally. In addition he tried to underline the latter argument with the fact that he himself is a legal specialist...

The discussion was not fruitful because instead of rational arguments belief onto the system of inviolability of state underlined the whole discourse. My reference to the morality were laughed at and question about philanthropist activities of the AAA team (similar to robber barons building universities, libraries and art galleries in the US) was accepted as something Latvian robber barons could have thought about...

Better Latvian robber barons and their cleptocratic retinue stay thinking and Latvian enlightened voters make a clear and decisive sweeping of the corrupt Augean stables this weekend, because the filling of private pockets under the naked banner of private capital accumulation| privatization has almost killed the goose that lays golden eggs. It is about time for Latvian voters to wake up, pass the corrupt politicians into the dumpster of history, and and let their positive energies GO!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dare to dream, Latvian citizen!

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

Always Transforming but ''Permanent'' Governing Coalition in LV

Colleagues from Providus and Jurģis Bērziņs just published a splendid iconographic chart.

It analyzes the last 10 years in LV politics and calculates for how many days which party was responsible managing certain sector of economy, and for how long parties/party coalitions have had power. Excellent job!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Messy Latvian party political culture

Four years have passed since the 2006 parliamentary elections in Latvia. Even though the Supreme Court of Latvia ruled that election campaign was not truly legitimate, other Latvian courts still have not decided whether major culprits - People's & Latvian First and Latvian Way Union parties - are liable to repay illegally spent EUR 2 mlj. back into state treasury. Since the events four years back Latvian political environment has transformed and literally non of the political parties participate in the 2010 elections, even though almost all the same politicians would fight for the survival.

Purists would object me telling that there are still political parties in Latvia. Indeed there are circa 52 political parties/unions (State Company Registry (UR) data three months ago) in Latvia. But from thirteen party lists that are running for parliament in upcoming elections Cristian Democrats, and motley of strangely named parties like ''Daugave for Latvia'', ''People's Control'', ''Made in Latvia'', and ''For Presidential Republic'' are nowhere near the mandatory 5% threshold to enter the Saeima (parliament)... . Also, and even more importantly, only two (Union of Greens and Farmers and For Human Rights in Latvia) of the thirteen contenders for 100 seats in the parliament are founded prior 2006. The system is volatile and unfortunately classical political parties - conservatives, liberals, social democrats, greens - are not institutionalized in Latvia. Thus one may conclude that the party political system has pretty much returned to square one. Reasons for the party political system not being institutionalized are ample, and about those reasons there would be another blog entry coming soon.

In the following four charts I have used the ''Latvijas Fakti'', SKDS, and www.ir.lv data in order to roughly show alternations of support for the Latvian political parties/unions from January 2007 - August 2010.

SUPPORT for LV POLITICAL UNIONS 02.2008 - 07.2010

SUPPORT for LV POLITICAL PARTIES 01.2007 - 07.2010