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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In order to make predicitions you need a solid base...

Any science needs measurable quantities or substances in order to get thruthful answers. It is even more true in social sciences and the balanced development of the Western societies has given political scientists ample of time to make certain and solid predictions after the Wortld War II. Conclusions of Ron Ingelhardt, Gabriel Almon or Giovanni Sartori still hold very much to the stability of Western societies, which are gradually changing if we folow what is happening in Belgium, the US, PIGS or Mexico today. Party political systems are changing in all previously mentioned countries except the US due to the FPTP electoral system, but it explains the polarization of opinions prior last four US presidential elections, TEA party phenomenon, and many other new developments in once ''stable'' party political wheeling & dealing systems. Thus, the once easily predictable voter's behaviour is transforming and particularly in peripheral EU countries the party system volatility is increasing.

Latvia, is no exception here and the volatility of the Latvian parties is closer to the homologues in Central or South America, rather than ones in the Central Europe. The endemic corruption and state capture was practiced all those years due to the cleptocratic elites and meek populations, who were not demanding their representatives to be legitimate within the system of rule of law. Thus, the Latvian existing miniscule political parties are being remade now or there are new ones created, when finally very essential legal amendments are on the threshold (the mandatory tax and property declarations system should be introduced by January 1,2012 and ppolitical parties will be funded from the state budget as of the same date).

For the September 17, 2012 elections there will be thirteen party lists competing for the 100 seat parliament. The competition might seem fierce but in reality there are only five considerable contenders for passing the 5% entry threshold - the center right Unity, the center left Harmony Center, liberal Zatlers Reform party, the conservative National Alliance and Union of Greens and Farmers. While the center, right, left or liberal appears in the party programs Latvian parties it is still premature to call them this way, because the Latvian party political system is being remodeled at this very moment. Thus, ideologicaly based discourse is still to develop in Saeima, and for that the incumbent political forces ned legitimacy.

But the legitimacy is the crucial problem because so fgar unaccountability rules and previous oligarchic political parties disoriented voters. That explains why Latvia is so full of contrasts. While the Latvian Saeima was about to be be given way to continue its half baked reforms, the Latvian president literally interrupted the pregnancy just nine month after the 10'th Saeima was sworn in, and about 45% of Latvian voters in referendum decided to abort the stillborn parliament. Now, in the latest pollster one third of populations still proclaims that they do not know whom to vote for in forthcoming elections, and I can understand that. But then today there is a pollster where 77% of questioned believe that qualitative changes in the newly elected Saeima are impossible to expect. Also whilst following the latest Eurobarometer pollster, it becomes clear that Latvian voters do not see the light at the end of the tunnel as their Estonian neighbors for example. To put such a grim Latvian picture in a nutshell, what do you do in such a situation when people do not believe in ability to change smth. in their own environment? My short answer is - empower and educate them! For the more elaborate program and policies there will be a whole month to explain:)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

After the Latvian July 23 referendum...

The formative referendum dismissed the 10th Saeima, and the first ever emergency elections in Latvia will be held in September 17, 2011.

The time to prepare for elections is short and thus most political parties go with their old or slightly upgraded programs. Because among the Latvian populace most of the democratic institutions are dismissingly unpopular, and parliament being among them, thus many new faces have appeared on the party lists. And to make the situation even more intriguing also there is a new kid on the block, who shall try to squeeze into the Latvian party political spectrum.

Until now it is hard to predict the exact outcome of the Latvian elections, because the Latvian party political system has returned to the square one, and since the budgetary funding for the political parties will start only from 01.01.2012, we could finally start to project operations and what kind of system will be formed out from the ethnically divided and scarsely populated Latvian parties.

Because of the emergency character of those formative elections I have decided to run for the Saeima myself. This would make me to change my usual schedule and I have already started to participate in the month long election campaign sprint.

Other than that, my hunch is that the center right Unity, the center left Harmony Center (HC), the liberal Zatlers Reform (ZRP) party, the Union of Greens and Farmers as well as the conservative National Union party would get elected into the parliament. I am not sure about chances of the For Human Rights in United Latvia party as well as about the desperate maverick trying to do anything to get elected. Nevertheless, the fact is that until now about a third of electors are undecided and thus the campaign month (or better say the sprint!) will determine whether Latvian voters shall opt for the European of post-Soviet path of development. The European path would be defined by voters trusting the results of hard won reforms of the Valdis Dombrovskis government and allowing to form coalition with either the ZRP or the HC party. The opposite and hopefully non materializing path would foresee the populist politicans engineering an ethnically deterministic vote for the benefit of ''populous anarchy a'la lettica'', and thus opening Ms Latvia for uncharted waters...again:)

P.S. My latest piece in Ukrainian ''Tyzhden'' (in Ukrainian)