Showing posts with label The Baltic Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Baltic Times. Show all posts

Monday, October 18, 2010

Official results of the October 2 elections in Latvia

It has been known already that political unions are inherently unstable and during last parliamentary elections only political unions were elected into the Latvian Parliament (Saeima). Purists would remind me that Harmony Centre has transformed into the political force which tends to position itself as a social democratic party. That is right but the heterogeneity of its membership, lack of truly democratic decision making process within that party, and relatively young age of the Harmony Centre party allows me to categorize it more like a political union rather than a stable party. But the internal composition of the political unions is not the issue I want to discuss tonight but rather to publish the latest significant news about the late elections.

Since almost two weeks it is announced that he Unity won the most seats (33) in the 100 member parliament, Harmony Center (29) came second, Union of Greens of Farmers (22) came third, and All for Latvia & For Good Latvia got eight seats each. The possible size and program of the governing coalition is still negotiated and incumbent Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis is prime figure behind this process.

Positions of different political unions was known so far but exact knowledge about who is who in the new parliament was officially announced only today. Since we have the official information (see below) it is possible to finally evaluate possible candidates for ministerial positions and their replacements into the new parliament. That would be most probably the next entry, because there is still about two weeks until the first session of the 10th Saeima, and the negotiations about the new governing coalition are bitter at times when all attention should be actually focused on the overhaul of the antiquated economic structure and boosting "green shoots" of the nascent economy.




Photo: Ieva Čīka/LETA

UNITY (33)

From the Riga electoral district: Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (PS), Ojārs Kalniņš (PS), Lolita Čigāne (PS), Rasma Kārkliņa (PS), Ints Dālderis (JL), Inguna Rībena (JL), Andris Buiķis (JL), Ilze Viņķele (PS), Imants Lieģis (PS).

From the Livonian electoral district: Valdis Dombrovskis (JL), Artis Pabriks (SCP), Ilma Čepāne (PS), Ainars Latkovskis (JL), Ina Druviete (PS), Edvards Smiltēns (SCP), Andris Vilks (PS), Arvils Ašeradens (PS), Dzintars Ābiķis (SCP), Guntars Galvanovskis (JL), Dzintra Hirša (PS) un Ingmārs Čaklais (PS).

From the Latgale electoral district: Aleksejs Loskutovs (SCP) un Kārlis Šadurskis (PS),

From the electoral district in Courland: Solvita Āboltiņa (JL), Janīna Kursīte-Pakule (PS), Silva Bendrāte (JL) un Ingrīda Circene (JL).

From the electoral district in Semigallen: Sarmīte Ēlerte (PS), Artis Kampars (JL), Dzintars Zaķis (JL), Atis Lejiņš (SCP), Aigars Štokenbergs (SCP) un Klāvs Olšteins (JL).


HARMONY CENTER (29)

From the Riga electoral district: Jānis Urbanovičs, Sergejs Dolgopolovs, Andrejs Klementjevs, Artūrs Rubiks, Boriss Cilevičs, Sergejs Mirskis, Nikolajs Kabanovs, Igors Pimenovs, Mihails Zemļinskis, Igors Meļņikovs, Aleksejs Holostovs, Ņikita Ņikoforovs un Igors Zujevs.

From the Livonian electoral district: Ivans Klementjevs, Jānis Ādamsons, Juris Silovs, Aleksandrs Sakovskis.

From the Latgale electoral district: Jānis Tutins, Raimonds Rubiks, Ivans Ribakovs, Vladimirs Nikonovs, Aleksandrs Jakimovs, Aleksejs Burunovs, Sergejs Fjodorovs, Dmitrijs Rodionovs,

From the electoral district in Courland: Valērijs Agešins, Valērijs Kravcovs.

From the electoral district in Semigallen: Valentīns Grigorjevs un Vitālijs Orlovs.


UNION OF GREENS AND FARMERS (22)

From the Riga electoral district: Raimonds Vējonis, Kārlis Seržants, Jānis Strazdiņš,

From the Livonian electoral district: Jānis Dūklavs, Ingmārs Līdaka, Iveta Grigule, Armands Krauze, Vitauts Staņa, Andris Bērziņš

From the electoral district in Semigallen: Augusts Brigmanis, Andris Bērziņš, Uldis Augulis, Dace Reinika, Aivars Dronka

From the Latgale electoral district: Staņislavs Šķesters, Jānis Klaužs un Rihards Eigims

From the electoral district in Courland: Gundars Daudze, Aija Barča, Dana Reizniece, Oskars Zīds un Jānis Vucāns.


FOR GOOD LATVIA (8)

No Rīgas ievēlēti - Ainārs un Inese Šleseri (LPP/LC)

No Kurzemes ievēlēts Edgars Zalāns (TP)

No Vidzemes ievēlēti: Māris Kučinskis (TP) un Guntis Ulmanis

No Latgales ievēlēti: Rita Strode (LPP/LC) un Imants Bekešs,

No Zemgales ievēlēts Andris Šķēle (TP)


ALL FOR LATVIA (8)

No Rīgas ievēlēti: Dzintars Rasnačs (TB/LNNK) un Einārs Cilinskis (VL)

No Vidzemes ievēlēti: Raivis Dzintars (VL), Visvaldis Lācis (VL), Jānis Dombrava (VL)

No Latgales ievēlēta Inese Laizāne (VL)

No Kurzemes ievēlēts Gaidis Bērziņš (TB/LNNK)

No Zemgales ievēlēts Imants Parādnieks (VL)

P.S. Here are links to my latest articles on LV elections in Postimees, Delfi, Ukrainian daily, and TBT

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

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Democratic systems and desire for a strong hand in Latvia

The UN membership is a sign abut a country taking the responsibility to follow basic principles of participation in global civil society, even though there is neither enforcement agency to impose such principles, uniform model of democracy, nor the system for punishing countries that are complacent or ignorant enough. The Council of Europe(CE) in Strasbourg serves the gatekeeper role to ensure that the prospective EU members abide by democratic norms in their legislatures, and also the EU itself offers OMC method and other tools for upgrading governance of the union. There are sceptics who say that the UNO or EC does not solve state’s constitutive problems stemming from neoliberal rule of markets, but they forget that the primary reason d’être of those organizations is to ensure peace and stability, and in democracies those are people who have to demand better governance through participation.

Particularly for young democracies it is essential to follow the best guidelines of democratic governance, because abiding to those rules improves governing capacity of young states and ensures their long term economic development. Empirical evidence in Europe since the First World War infallibly demonstrates that democracies rather than other forms of government are better at ensuring economic sustainability and balanced development of society.

Since late 1980’s three Baltic States (3B) have developed their own version of democratic governance. In many EU countries there is wrong perception about the existence of the European democratic model. In reality there are twenty seven of them and none of them is perfect, even though there are scholars and politicians who want to emphasize normative virtues of a specific kind because of particular interests. Most democracies follow the path dependency strategy and thus their chosen electoral systems stem from constellation of domestic political factions. Therefore normative importance of domestic models should not be overemphasized.
There always were and will be certain rancor about the work of government in any democracy, and there are numerous politicians who tend to keep accountable international organizations for their own misbehavior. Major reason why opinion polls traditionally show low support for incumbent politicians is the nature of government that has to make also painful decisions within certain time frame while keeping in mind inherently heterogeneous interests in society. Neither Latvian nor Lithuanian people feel that their personal welfare would suddenly improve according to last Eurobarometer bi - annual survey. Participation in elections is declining for the last twenty years and indicates that 3B citizens are disillusioned about politics. However, quantity of disillusioned and alienated voters in Latvia is dangerously high (50% of electorate on average from March 2007 onwards according to ‘’Latvijas Fakti’’), and according to ‘’Diena’’ survey last year 30% of those polled would have agreed with coup d’état in order to bring back order. Numerous Latvian politicians from Union of Greens of Farmers, People’s Party and Latvian First Party/Latvian Way are directly responsible for oligarchic groups continuing practice of state capture with impunity. Now they rashly proclaim that strong presidentialism is the only medicine for present evils. Before making their announcements they could at least consult scholars whom they have failed to listen for the last twenty years. Thus inadequately educated politicians could have learned that semi – presidential system in Lithuania was not panacea, because distrust in domestic representative institutions is almost identical in Latvia and Lithuania. Besides, Estonia’s democratic system is almost identical to Latvia but it does not deliver such appalling results as much the trust in representative democracy is concerned.

Since Lithuanian and Estonian constitutional caucus and free elections in 1992 Estonian political system is not as politically polarized as in Lithuania, and Lithuania is characterized so far by stable single party majority democracy. Political party membership is declining throughout the industrially developed world, but absolutely the lowest membership in the EU is in Latvia. In Lithuania between parliamentary sessions the public opinion traditionally swung between the right and left, and in Estonia the political pendulum has swung between liberal and conservative forces. Regardless of the turbulence caused by the successful impeachment procedure of the President Paksas in Lithuania, one may largely conclude that Lithuanian and Estonian democracies are consolidated to use the terminology of Robert Dahl, while Latvian demos still democratizes.

Among reasons for Lithuania and Estonia being consolidated democracies are constitutional caucuses that consequently made political forces to find consensus in new constitution in 1992, and establish rule of law early on. Latvia is the only CEE country where irreconcilable political groups rolled over the 1922 Consitution with some amendments after the 1993 elections. I have used the constitutional argument in couple of previous articles, but it should not be overestimated, because in Austria, for example, the provisional constitution of 1920 has been continuously amended without being approved in nationwide referendum by competing political forces and allowed Austrian democracy to flourish.

Real problems of governance rather reside in laws that Latvian lawmakers evaded – mandatory tax and property declaration system, party financing from state budget, and functional limits for election campaign financing - thus gradually corrupting the political culture. Aivars Lembergs, Andris Skele, and Ainars Slesers disdain for the rule of law is not a secret. These authoritarian and corrupt politicians and their dubiously educated retinue probably ascertained that disrespect to the rule of law led to impeachment of the Lithuanian president R. Paksas. That is the major reason why their pocket parties continue to recklessly call for strong hand, allowing legal nihilism to prevail and hindering birth of genuine rule of law in Latvia. To remove obstruction to thus fundamental legal documents the Prosecutor General Office in collaboration with KNAB should suspend operation of the Latvian People’s Party, Latvian Way & Latvian First Party and hence political union For Good Latvia until the disbursement of about EUR 2 mlj. into state treasury is settled. Not only the Latvian Supreme Court made a precedent with their November 3, 2006 decision stating that previously mentioned parties broke the law. Also the Council of Europe Venice Commission recommendations as well as the UN good governance principles recommend due process in present circumstances.

This article originally appeared in July 28, 2010 the Baltic Times

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whether geography matters in the Baltic constructed ’’world’’?

There are politicians in the Baltic States (3B) who persistently tend to emphasize the unique geographical position of their represented states. Thus the politicians continue to mislead themselves and broad swathes of society, because particularly since the end of the Cold War traditional relations between states, strategies of the military, and international trade policy has witnessed significant transformations.

Within the European Union 3B could be geographically unique indeed, because their size and relative weakness of interest groups should allow 3B to give up anachronistic vestiges of the nation state statecraft and be stellar examples of small but well governed economies. While Estonia has earned laudatory achievements due to its own merits Lithuania and Latvia still grapple with old fashioned premises of nation state governance. It is perhaps symptomatic that you barely hear from Estonian mainstream politicians mythical notions of historic destiny in matters of governance, because for a small, efficient and open economy it is essential to achieve results with available resources.

During the early 1990’s 3B experienced advantage of relatively abundant and cheap labor. Ever since early 1990’s underinvestment in education sector and rapid rise of comparative welfare determines now the future of 3B economies. The only factor of comparative advantage is its relatively free and pristine land. Those scholars and politicians who anachronistically follow geopolitical dictum and speak about the advantage of geographical position of 3B forget that geostrategic position foremost needs human infrastructure. To put it differently geography matters only with sustainable taxable income and here development of human resources has utmost importance.

Baltic ice free harbours connected by pipeline or railroad do not offer much value without population unable to sustain such primary infrastructure from their taxes. Today one may easily continue to be Estonian in Tahiti whilst watching the Estonian Broadcasting Corporation emissions via satellite and ordering his favourite merchandise or services via internet. Technologies and in the World Trade Organization embedded international trade flows are producing truly global economy. It changes old paradigms and brakes material borders. However, it is harder to break mental borders which were constructed into people’s minds through formal education system. Education systems are traditionally conservative, and what really distinguishes well developing and declining economies today are education systems that are able to reform. Ability to reemphasize countries’ prerogatives of foreign trade, upgrade governance, and invest in education as bedrock of viable democracy determines countries’ position in international pecking order. To measure just few international indexes (World Economic Forum, Pisa, UNPA e-government a.o.) it becomes apparent that Latvia continuously falls in terms of its development not only behind Estonia, but now also behind Lithuania and Poland.

3B are ideally positioned to learn from historic examples around them. Finland and West Germany as vanquished countries came out of the war as modernizers leaving anachronistic belief in geographical dictum behind them. At the same time it was the USSR before and now Russia which continues to construct the language of 19.century imperialism and under invests in its human and material infrastructure. Learning from other’s mistakes rather from one’s own distinguishes smart collectivities from not so smart ones. It would be advisable for 3B populations to wake up from wrong myths about ’’special geographical position’’ of their states, ’’bottomless Eastern market’’ or naive assumptions about their countries comparative advantages as ’’the real crossroads between the East and West’’. The 3B are tiny and depopulating, thus geography still matters when one must choose ones strategic partners.

Lithuanian Polish relations are exemplary as well as the Estonian – Finnish relations are institutionally flourishing today. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian unity with the Baltic Assembly regular sessions and specialized cooperation between particular branches of government looks good, but in reality the 3B cooperation is an elitist endavour without substantial interdependence.
The traditional promoter of the Baltic cooperation is unable to project Latvian soft power even domestically because of governance system being in shambles. Since avoidance of insolvency now Latvia 2.0 needs paradigmatic change of cooperation with its neighbors. Unfortunately Latvia has wasted nineteen years and its external space of maneuvering is limited. Latvian government must continue cooperation with its Baltic neighbors in economic and energy policies. Politically, however, Latvian political class must decide whether they want to develop embedded relations on axis with Scandinavian countries, Poland or Moscow. The infantile policy of oligarchic parties falsely claiming that Latvia is securely embedded in Western security structure and thus free to cooperate and trade with everyone in the East, North, South and West is wrong. Latvian oligarchic groups are thus poorly educated that they have not even learned the old maxim: ’’you cannot serve two kings at the same time’’. It is time for Latvian politicians to wake up from self inflicted and smug dream world, assess the dynamically transforming external environment and decide which path of development they want to emulate. Estonia is reassessing its economic relations with Russia as Lithuania does, but it goes through the transparent process of strengthening the domestic governing capacity and rule of law. Without Latvia 2.0 being implemented the outdated geographical dictum could eventually materialize, but it would not offer Latvia even a chance for a spot on ‘the crossroads between the East and West’’, but simply assign it to the proxy role of transit depot for Eastern hydrocarbon barons...

P.S. Originally this article appeared in the Baltic Times July 1, 2010 issue.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Political structure and formulation of national interest in 3B

The prerequisite for the following of the national interest is the interest aggregation of similarly minded ideological groups of people and the ability of state entities to govern efficiently. Interest aggregation is a continuous process that stems from the foundations of the republic. Efficient government is based on promoting the best possible human resources, thus the virtues of meritocracy and home grown elites would prevail. Interest aggregation and efficient government in the Baltic States (3B) until 2004 were focused on overhauling their antiquated governance systems and fulfilling strategic goals.

In hindsight, one may determine that those alarmists in Riga and Vilnius, who blamed Tallinn for using public relations strategies in order to be invited to start EU membership negotiations after the Luxembourg Summit in 1997 were wrong. Estonia used membership in the Western Club organizations as a means to an end, and such strategy has served Estonia well so far. In May 2010, Estonia was invited to become a member of the OECD and probably in early 2011 would become the member of Euroland.

There are academics and politicians who caution Estonia against entering into the eurozone at a time when the unique currency is undergoing its biggest crisis since its introduction in 1999. There are authors with apocalyptic visions about the demise of the Euroland and EU, but representatives of moderate views are gaining consensus about the roots of the economic and financial governance in the EU - the lack of leadership and inability of the domestic actors to adapt to the dynamic change that is endogenously formulated.

Development strategies have been formulated in the UN and EU, and, since the end of the Cold War, also in the World Bank and IMF volumes of literature have been written about the different policy mix needed to achieve the desired results. The bottom line for achieving tangible results, however, is the ability of domestic political forces to adapt to the dynamic international environment and thus continuously reformulate opportunities that the global marketplace of ideas

Writing of new constitutions in Estonia and Lithuania, differently from Latvia, allowed elites to reemphasize the ideals of their republics and establish generally accepted rules of the game, thus they could readjust their national interest within a level playing field See net neutrality. after major strategic achievements.

Since the early 1990s the power in Lithuania has oscillated between conservative and social democratic majority coalitions. Upgrading of the Lithuanian polity culminated in establishing a mixed voting system as well as in establishing the semi-presidential system. The Estonian coalition of liberal, conservative and moderate political forces have traditionally united against the political depredations of the founder of the Center Party, Mr. Edgar Savisaar. Since the last parliamentary elections, and particularly since local elections in 2009, one may notice that the Estonian party system is transforming after the leadership change among the Social Democrats and heavy disagreements in the People's Union party. The upcoming parliamentary elections in 2011 will probably be hard fought.

It will be interesting to see whether development strategies of the right wing coalition will have credible alternatives coming from the Estonian center left coalition. The absence of mutually accepted rules of the political game differentiates Latvia's development from its Baltic neighbors. The Eurobarometer survey shows that in terms of general distrust in their representative institutions, Estonia is a positive exception among the 3B. Therefore, present Latvian negative exceptionalism is explained with the avoidance of insolvency, doubling of the rate of national debt and continuous political crisis.

Navigating the national economy in times of global economic and financial crisis is a formidable task. The efforts of Mr. Kubilius' government, with President Grybauskaite, to balance formulation of the national interest and to cut red tape do not make him popular. However, the task of Mr. Kubilius is made understandable for the average voter because it was the coalition government, led by the Lithuanian Social Democrats which governed Lithuania into recession and lost in the elections as a result. Latvia's dilapidated governing coalition is unnatural, and ethnic Latvian vs. Russian as well as democratic vs. oligarchic cleavages cut across Latvia's political spectrum.

It is nearly impossible to agree on future development strategies when blackmail, filibustering and populism prevail in the Latvian political culture. In such an environment sound advice of Western partners is not heard, short term policies are embedded, and external enemies are continuously reframed in order to consolidate undecided voters. It only fosters resentment and apathy, when politicians with questionable credentials are pushed through the political machinery to become members of the Constitutional Court, or when the work of the Corruption Prevention Bureau is undermined with the appointment of a heavily indebted person at its helm.

Latvia's ageing population is waiting for unequivocally understood rules of the game, while the younger generation adds to the increasing brain drain. A positive outcome of the October 2010 elections is a prerequisite for the formulation of long term national interests. Traditional political parties in Latvia This is a list of political parties in Latvia.

Latvia has a multi-party system, where no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalition governments. continue to rely on questionable strategies of spin-doctors, and clearly defined economic programs for stopping deindustrialization and eradicating roots of political crisis that would transcend existing cleavages in society are not yet presented. With such a strategy Latvia's political class continues to fall behind its vexed Baltic neighbors, and gives ample tools to the folks who question the very existence of Latvia.

P.S. Originally this article appeared in the Baltic Times May 27, 2010 issue.

P.P.S. The June TBT article you can access here, latest piece for Estonian readers you may find here, and for the Latvian readers there is something here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

TRANSfiguration of the political system

Transfiguration is usually referred to the religious and miraculous transformations. To avoid meddling into sphere of divine I underlined the TRANS part in order to stress the aspect of transition. While our lives are transitory we still live within societies that create more or less stable systems and institutions of governance. Whilst following debates in the Latvian society I have made some hypothetical assumptions about the society which has been disoriented due to wrong constitutional principles, lack of rule of law, deindustrialization and constant decrease of funds for the educational sector. The latter aspect during those economically turbulent times has literally impoverished Latvian higher education system. Thus, rather large chunk of society is hoping for divine intervention, and it vicariously underlines the figuration part in header:) The Latvian demos majority instead of taking their fate in their own hands hopes for messiah. Thus the Latvian political system suffers under the stress of post-totalitarian inertia. Europeanization of the Latvian political system has halted since Latvia joined the European Union, and the traditional pressure groups and authorities still have unduly authority, thus preventing legal rational authority to reign supreme.

The Latvian Supreme Court on November 3, 2006 ruled that during the October 2006 parliamentary elections victorious People's Party (PP) and The Latvian Way and First Party Union (LWFPU) breached the election law. The Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) under the leadership of A.Loskutovs demanded both parties to pay about 2.mlj EUR (LVL1mlj PP & LVL500 000 thousand LWFPU) into state treasury. Insistence of Mr Loskutovs office appeared to be thus dangerous, that Aleksejs Loskutovs was illegally sacked in 2008. The Latvian Prosecutor's Office was meek enough, and today neither the monies are paid into treasury nor the previously mentioned parties banned. Illegality of Mr Loskutovs sacking was proven by court decision at the end of 2009, but Prime Ministers have changed twice since Mr Loskutovs was fired. While one of the former heads of the cabinet simply did not care about the state affairs, another one at least expressed his wish to see the most qualified person running for the KNAB. Nevertheless, Normunds Vilnitis with rather questionable credentials was found. Heavily indebted Mr Vilnītis (his personal liabilities amount EUR 200 000 and his wife's amount LVL 1,5mlj) is reshuffling organizational structure of KNAB, and it appears to be thus important that some odious persons attentively follow the latest news in this sensitive office. In the meantime oligarchic PP& LWLFP party organizations merged and their spin doctors are having a feast and electioneering!

Virtual dismemberment of the properly functioning legal system go hand in hand with the election campaign today. Instead of following principles of due process the same corrupt politicians continue their cynical politicking, and this is just a perfect Māris Bišofs cartoon explaining how the political kitchen of Latvia Ltd. works:)

Slesis (The former Minister of Transport Ainars Lesinskis-Slesers)
TP (tautas partija) - People's Party (PP)
LPP (latvijas pirmā partija) - Latvian First Party (FP)
PLL (par labu latviju) - For Good Latvia (movement of corrupt entrepreneurs feeding for the last 20. years on government contracts, and designed to enable PP + LWFPU to avoid paying circa 2. mlj EUR into state treasury and LEGALLY run for the parliament AGAIN)

THIS IS OUR NEW MODEL



As a consequence there is little faith left for Europeanized change in this only remaining post-totalitarian Baltic State. After the President Vaira Vike Freiberga left the office the election process of the new head of the Supreme Court, three members of the Constitutional Court, the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Prosecutor General have been questionable to sound diplomatic enough. At times when the republic of Latvia experiences questioning of its very raison d'etre unqualified shenanigans are promoted for jobs in public office and there is no one to enforce the rule of law...

P.S. Here are the links to my April and May articles in the Baltic Times. For Latvian readers here is a link to my article in IR and for Estonian readers here is a link to my article in Diplomaatia.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Southern Bridge follow up

While reviewing most used keywords in my blog I discovered (what a surprize:) that my blog is mostly visited in order to learn about the incerdibly expensive bridge in Riga. While the Latvian State Audit Office and Mme Sudraba have appeared powerless sofar, perhaps Duncan Wood's article (Thank You Duncan!) would help to refocus Latvian prosecutors attention to real culprits of this legal and political conundrum?

Today it was announced that the building of the bridge could be terminated indefinetly. And all this regardless of the protests of the inhabitants of the nearby areas who had to learn that promises the politicians gave them would not be fulfilled.

Lets see how this Latvian conundrum would be untangled, and I only hope that this corruption case would remind Latvian electors in forthcoming elections who made decision prior the Southern Bridge was started to be built! Also I expect that politicians would not use the bridge as populist campaign slogan. There are enough issues to be disucussed and SOLVED prior October 2, 2010 elections and the comprehensive remuneration system for civil servants is one of them. The latter system of remuneration was reported by the incumbent parliament as a done deal, thus the government could report to the IMF and EU financial donors that Latvian partners have fulfilled their task. However, increasing number of Neo reports continuously remind us that in terms of orderly public finances, as much the comprehensive Latvian public service remuneration system is concerned, anarchy still ruled supreme until the very end of 2009. In addition also informative article about astounding liabilities of top notch Latvian holders of public office makes one wonder, how those politicains with their official and relatively meagre salaries plan to repay their creditors in open and transparent manner?

Unfortunately, Latvian prosecutors office cannot work at full force, because Mr Maizitis must wait until the end of the month when Latvian MP's would decide whether incumbent prosecutor general would continue in his post. Lets see what else investigative journalists would find out, and then we could also see the playground of election campaign more clearly, because until now it is simply too muddled.

P.S. Here is the link to my latest the Baltic Times article

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Latvian plumber ready to rule "LatVasjuki"?

Latvian former president and her supporters try to network support behind her nomination for the post of the European Council President next week. I honor Madam Freiberga and her team's efforts and would be happily surprised if she would manage to rally thus needed support behind her nomination for the post of the first president of the united Europe, even though I believe that more dynamic person should be needed for this newly created position.

While madam Freiberga continue her networking activities Latvian complacent and provincial politicians continue to play their games. Just in my last entry I used to mention about the zero sum game activities of the ill famous Latvian AAA team. While People's party (PP) "state capturers" are preparing for their congress in November 21, 2009 the junior member of the AAA team managed to bluff big style today.

There was annual congress of the Latvian Way Latvian First Party union (LWLFP), and also the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church Mr Pujāts gave his blessing for the bunch on liberoreligious bunch of the LWLFP . The Cardinal rather symbolically pleaded the conservative party folks to "abstain" from morally corrupting activities. In the meantime the former co-chairman of the party was crying foul about his correct strategy of saving Parex, and thus avoiding the Icelandic meltdown of state finances.

As if this would not be enough LETA and Apollo reports that the newly elected LWLFP party chairman and Vice Major of Riga in the party congress openly called the government of Valdis Dombrovskis to step down after the 2010 budget would be passed in the parliament. Bluffing big style is the specialty of the Vice major of Riga and rather ominously he announced that he does not want to to run for the parliament. Now, the politician with his initial surname Lešinskis, who took his wife's "europeanized" last name [Šlesere], joined other two members of the AAA team. Neither the head of the PP state capturers Šķēle nor the sponsor of the Greens and farmers Lembergs want to run for the parliament, because they deem themselves to be omnipotent PM candidates for the upcoming elections.

Latvian minigarch's spin doctors strategy is robust, but unimaginative, and now the youngest member of the AAA team wants to earn his brownies from authoritarian chums outside Latvia as well... . The political game the AAA team retinue plays is exhausting, and I still stick to the idea that this game should be left for the AAA team to immerse into. It is useless to compete with the AAA team whilst playing according to their rules, thus after the party of democratic choice would finish its consolidation it is essential to start to get our volunteers on ground and running on grass roots level as soon as possible. The October 2010 elections should turn out like "to be or not be elections" after all. Latvian civil society should avoid Latvian plumber (translation of Šlosers/Šlesers in Latvian slang) getting too snobbish in his imagined premiership of Latvasjuki, to paraphrase symbolic description of Chess capital from the Ilf & Petrov novel. Lets wait and see how the Latvian Independence Day celebrations would be held, and after them one would be able to notice whether it is mere bluffing or there is also some substance behind the verbal diarrhea of the incumbent Vice Major of Riga.

p.s. Here is access to my monthly TBT column, and the full access to it would be provided next Monday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't ask, don't tell

Google search engine gives most answers about the ''don't ask, don't tell'' expression in relation to sexual minorities in the US army, however, it is an old expression that allowed minority groups to survive throughout world history. I do remember hearing such expressions from my grandparents in the Soviet occupied Estonia, and now also among minority groups in Latvia. In this blog entry I do not want to delve thus much back into history as to describe the present Latvian government, because in its totality Latvian nomenclature actions perfectly reveal example of "don't ask, don't tell" governance system.
Almost everyone in Latvia would answer that major culprits of the present political and economic mess in Latvia - it is ill famous AAA team. And the same AAA team catering for their own gang of supporters have institutionalised hierarchical and corrupt governance system, that is hidden behind the facade of the Latvian constitutional democracy. However, the Latvian constitutional caucus did not take place in post - independence Latvia, because the former CPSU comrades and Diaspora members simply rolled over the 1922 Satversme. Such turn of events allowed gangsters from the AAA team not only to exert inordinate influence over decision making process, but to literally capture the state.
However, it is impossible to discuss it openly on governmental level because the Prosecutor General and Corruption Prevention bureau (KNAB) are powerless so far. To present you the latest example, I believe that almost every reasonable person in the Latvian public domain understand that the government dragging its feet while implementing structural reforms was mostly due to gross mistakes of Kalvitis (PP) and Godmanis (LWLFP) governments. The previous mistakes were never really evaluated, and today we are able to learn that nothing special minister is ready to be minister again (!). Today the major opposition to structural reforms is the whimsical PP and always changing their mind UGF "coalition partners" behavior.
Disappearance of business projects and giving up of power does not happen smoothly anywhere.
The AAA team gangsters are behaving strangely however. While they were endorsing Latvian accession to the EU and NATO it allowed them to earn handsome monies from this process. I believe that they somehow miscalculated the golden straitjacket that followed the EU membership. This probably explains why the AAA team does not legalize its activities, but fights for very survival of the Lettish crony capitalism! I also have a hunch that the AAA team are not even major play makers in their shady activities, because why the hell they would act thus irrationally and gangsta like? My hunch is that they do not really manage establishing business contacts in the West, thus staying intimately connected with authoritarian chums in undemocratically governed countries. It means that Latvian Western partners must play the "don't ask, don't tell" game because alternatively there would be an open confrontation. While the civil society members were trying to explain basic principles of democratic governance to the Latvian populace, the AAA team and their retinue with their deep pockets were rather successful in disseminating their conspiracy theories. Simply the political establishment never cared establishing europeanized democratic political and discussion culture. I do understand that my last two sentences were broad generalizations, but then how to explain flourishing of such notions as sorosīdi and liberasts in Latvian public opinion? I understand if Bedlam folks use such expressions, but those notions have entered into mainstream public discourse and also Latvian politicians ostensibly use them... . I have not heard such notions in Estonia and Lithuania for example, and would be glad if someone from Eesti or Lietuva would be able to provide me facts about such occurrences.
ECOFIN Commissioner Mr Joaquin Almunia or IMF are described in internet forums as evil forces in Latvian press, but media houses and their owners who portray IMF and EU as smth. foreign could better recall that it was the Latvian political establishment (PP, UGF, LWLFP and TBLNNK) that signed agreements with both the EU and IMF. Why the hell the EU representatives must explain that Latvian government was the one requesting the mega loan and understanding the need to implement structural reforms again and again, and that the EU did not force those reforms on its own member state? Why the hell the journalists do not understand thus simple facts and participate in this "don't ask, don't tell" game? Enough for this morning, and the president convenes the state security council today, and I leave my questions unanswered. Each and every one of you probably know the reasons for present rat hole Latvian state has painted itself in. However, the government must outsmart the corrupt AAA team players, and that game is heck of the complicated because AAA team gangsters are both in government, courts and civil service, and to pinpoint who is really who in the post Soviet Latvia is not an easy task after all.
P.S. Here is my weekly column for the Baltic Times

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 20th Anniversary of Baltic Way on threshold

I am about to return to the shores of the Baltic Sea tomorrow after having a very productive summer. The 20th Anniversary of the Baltic Way is under way, and I am going to participate together with my family in quite few of the events taking place throughout Eesti, Latvija and Lietuva. This entry is just a small reminder about my return from paradise into civilization. Concise updates on Baltic politics would definitely resume in September, because the coming autumn appears to be rather tough both for the Latvian people and leaders. Lithuanian and Estonian economies are surviving, and lets see how quickly the trend in the EU's biggest economies of slow coming out of the global recession would arrive to the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.


P.S. At the same time I am adding a piece that was commissioned by the Baltic Times and appeared in August 13, 2009 issue. For those reading Latvian there was a piece that appeared in Diena in early August.