Saturday, July 25, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Early elections is a normal procedure in liberal democracies, and particularly so during times of constitutional and political crisis. This is the very situation the former governing "elite" had Latvia led into. While adding the economic turmoil Latvia must go through now, the Latvian society must really pass through the purgatory of triple crisis. The major opposition New Era (NE) party acknowledged such situation already in August 2008, and their present ratings would only capitalize their upward positions prior upcoming elections. The best way out of the overwhelming nihilism in the Latvian society would be achieved with the help of referendum for sacking of the parliament (Constitutional Art. 48). It could take place on June 6, 2009 together with the municipal and the European Parliament elections. Thus money would be saved on logistics and organization costs, and it would make also actions of the president transparent and comprehensible to the public.
It would be quite contrary to the continuously circling rumours about ensuing disaster that could ensue after sacking of the parliament [it would be the first precedent of early elections in Latvia]. The government of Valdis Dombrovskis would continue to work until the new parliament would be elected and new government formed. There have been numerous early elections in several European states, and Polish and Greek examples are still fresh in memory.
The president better make up his mind, and quick! Political events in the World and Europe are increasingly bypassing traditional chains of decision making process' in the small nation state [particularly the ill governed one]. Latvian present leaders cannot afford to continue as if "nothing special" happened, with the simple government facade uplift and without constitutional and legal amendments that are long overdue [amendments in electoral law and passing the mandatory tax and property declaration system]. Simply the younger generation would hemorrhage out of the country until the "traditional elite"would even notice it. Bulgarians already asked for the EU oversight, and I assume that Latvian president's team is knowledgeable enough not to wish it happening in Latvia? The present short term and complacent stability is fragile and built on thin ice. For monies the Latvian Treasury has acquired from Western donors, but without complete overhaul of the sluggish administrative machinery Latvian government would not be able to purchase even fish [stocks are depleted in the Baltic Sea anyway:)], because soon only fish bones would be left...
Monday, January 19, 2009
19.01.2009 - Mr President! We (Ministers & MP´s of the governing coalition plus the speaker of the parliament) consider that Saeima has lost its legitimacy, we want to sack ourselves....because we do not want to play anymore!
19.01.2009 - Yes Mr President! After meeting you we realized that we still want to play...
It is the fact already that governing coalition members are in absolute disarray, and I wonder whether the PM Godmanis would agree to continue in his post after return from Korea. In the meantime president Valdis Zatlers sticks firmly to his initial plan, and I am happy to see the miraculous transformation of his chancellery after arrival of Mr Rinkevics. Mr Zatlers held consultations with all the political representatives today, and opposition parties announced in one voice that they would be ready to work in the national unity government with apolitical PM at the helm (probably the present Head of the Latvian Audit Office Mrs Inguna Sudraba). According to the presidential plan, if his proposals would be initiated then constitutional referendum about sacking of the present parliament could take place on June 6, 2009, or the same day when municipal and European Parliament elections are planned to take the place. Good example of strategic planning from the Pils laukums indeed!
The TP ideologues have realized, however, that their chances are doomed, thus they behave thus boldly that the head of the Saeima Judicial Committee Mrs Muizniece (TP) sent a bill to the parliament proposing to amend the constitution (Art. 10), and that would allow the present parliament to dissolve itself. The president announced today, that he does not support the idea of the TP, and reiterated that he does not back off from the plan to see the ``home work`` done prior the March 31, 2009 deadline, particularly the changes in elections law and creation of the national unity government.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
On this day the Latvian president had a press conference. Upon his return from Strasbourg the previous day the president announced the number of tasks the parliament has failed to deliver, and set the March 31, 2009 deadline for parliament and the government to comply. Rather unexpectedly the president concluded that if the parliament and the government would not be able to deliver this time, then he would use the powers entitled upon him in the Latvian constitutional Art. 48.
The announcement was thus unexpected that the incumbent Minister of Interior announced that president has delivered an ultimatum, and the speaker of the Saeima interpreted the announcement, "that the president is entitled to ask the parliament instead of demanding from it", reminding the public about the omnipotence of the Saeima in the parliamentary republic.
Nevertheless, the events have developed very quickly and since January 17, 2009 the People's Party (TP) announced that they consider president's resolution as too inconsistent, thus demanding the snap elections immediately. Just finished watching the LNT TV program "vox populi" and there also Latvian Transport Supremo announced that he agrees with Mr Segliņš. Furthermore all party representatives that participated in the TV program basically agreed that snap elections in Latvia is the fact now! The only question now is about timing, because the president has announced the March 31 deadline, but at least two coalition members want snap elections right away.
Reasons for TP and LPP/LC parties to have snap elections immediately are rather trivial. In case snap elections would take place immediately, it would mean that they would take place without amendments in election law, that the president has demanded in his January 14, 2009 announcement. Also both parties breached the law in the October 2006 elections, and because of their failure to comply with the election campaign limits both parties owe the state treasury around 2 mlj. EUR.
Tomorrow political parties will hold consultations with the president. Upcoming snap elections is the fact now and the question is whether new parliamentary elections would take place in June 6, 2009 together with the municipal and European Parliament elections or after the summer in early September? Slimming of the government is being discussed and the PM left for Korea leaving the Transport Minister Šlesers as the acting PM. The situation is changing constantly and both coalition and opposition members are testing their tactics prior the triple elections. Elections tactics, retirement of the post soviet political elite and new persons coming into the stagnated political realm in Latvia will be the next topic to discuss about.
P.S. For those of you reading Estonian here is my Postimees article from January 15
P.S. Here in the Estonian Broadcasting Corporation program ``Vabariigi Kodanikud`` I participated on January 16., 2009.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
After the Latvian referendum summer the enthusiasm of the nascent civil society groups declined, but the dissatisfaction with the governing elite has not disappeared. Constitutional amendments after the August 2 referendum stopped in half way, and I already voiced my disbelief about chances to pass them prior next parliamentary elections in the October 2010. The spinelessness of the present Latvian majority MP's is embedded, but the presidential team gradually shows that they are able to act independently, and it is surprisingly good news indeed!
The November 18 speech was not only customarily patriotic, but in his speech Valdis Zatlers unexpectedly clearly pinpointed why Latvian public lacks trust in its representatives: "I wish once again to speak about the responsibility of politicians, too – the responsibility to create political dialogue, promote democracy, and ensure stability in our country. The languorous reaction which members of Parliament have demonstrated in response to this challenge since last summer’s referendum indicates political haughtiness toward the stated will of the people."
The president has held consultations with all the political parties in the Saeima. Yesterday's Kas notiek Latvijā? TV show was devoted to the issue of the constitutional amendments. Positions during the show were clearly outlined. The presidential representative Mrs Kukule pinpointed that the president follows recommendations of the report produced by experts of constitutional law. While the opposition parties agree on giving the right to qualified majority of electorate to initiate the dissolution of the Saeima, then those are ALL coalition parties who continue to live on as if nothing has ever happened. The smug attitude in yesterday's show was balancing on the border of stupidity. The biggest bone of contention actually is the number of electors that should have the right to dissolve the parliament. Opposition parties are ready to compromise and agree on rising the margin of half of electors who participated in last parliamentary elections to the 2/3 of the electors of last elections, while the coalition parties do not budge an inch - they stick to the idea that only half of the total number of electors should have a right to dissolve the Saeima (actually a bigger number of electors that elected the whole of the parliament, and thus making the dissolution virtually imposible). Initially opposition parties followed recommendations from the experts of constitutional law, that stipulates that after tedious procedure half of electors of the previous elections should have the right to dissolve the parliament in case of constitutional crisis (the very situation Latvian lives in now!).
The subcommittee that discussed constitutional amendments was dissolved this week and after insistence of the presidential team the task was taken over by the judicial committee of the Saeima. The head of the committee Mrs Vineta Muižniece (TP) yesterday was asked, whether the majority coalition parties would be able to follow recommendations of constitutional law experts and reach the compromise by the January deadline, as it is being set by the president now? As a schoolchild without any ideas of her own Mrs Muižniece retorted, that now the judicial committee would work really hard (how did they legislate so far then?) and would reach the compromise with the opposition.
Interesting, interesting indeed! Is it the insistence of the presidential team to solve this conundrum, that according to Mrs Kukule would imply using all his powers, that made Mrs Muižniece to agree on sudden change of mind? Possibly, because the latest pollsters show, that, if the president would use his rights (Art. 48 - "The President of State shall have the right to propose the dissolution of the Saeima. This shall be followed by a referendum. If in the referendum more than one-half of the votes are cast in favour of dissolution, the Saeima shall be considered as dissolved and new elections shall be proclaimed. These elections shall take place within two months after the dissolution of the Saeima"), then majority of Latvian electorate would actually support such motion.
Monday, June 30, 2008
In yesterday's emergency session the judicial commission bypassed the Saeima procedures (thus the opposition New Era (JL) arty already announced that they will try to overrule this decision in the Constitutional court). The motion of laying off the head of the Anti Corruption Agency Mr Loskutovs was brought to the parliament as a separate emergency session after all, and no rational arguments of the motley opposition helped here. The People's Party (TP) representatives were not even hiding their angst and with 53 AYS in the 100 member parliament Loskutovs was sacked from his post.
The former PM Kalvītis was thus happy about firing Mr Loskutovs that he could not hide it from the Saeima pulpit. He came out with another pearl a'la Kalvītis, announcing that, "the performance of Mr Loskutovs has made all the MP's into criminals in the eyes of commoners". His bravado in front of the MP's was a meek cover, because yesterday he was thus afraid of the peaceful demonstration in the front of the parliament, that he had to be escorted by the police and entered into the Saeima from the back doors. Also the speaker of the parliament Mr Daudze is his morning radio interview found excuses of avoiding the demonstrating people due to the "inability to talk with such a folks". The irony is that Kalvītis & Daudze named commoners are also members of intelligentsia who were among 500 or so protesters who stood in the front o the parliament for about eight hours.
As it was expected during the first emergency session yesterday the Minister of Defense (52 NO) and Minister of Agriculture (51 NO) survived the vote of no confidence initiated by the motley opposition. The considerable advantage of 58 member governing coalition is gradually dwindling, and now it is a time to wait until the August 2 referendum.
There is the Latvian Song & Dance festival starting this week and it is a chance for folks from all corners of Latvia and world to meet, sing, dance and discuss. It could enable the majority of the participants to form a conclusion that the best proof of the yesterday's Pyrrhic victory would be an overwhelming participation level in the August 2 referendum. Shall see, there are 34 days to go!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Latvian minigarchic families and their godfathers are not happy with the KNAB, because it crushes fiefdoms built by the ill famous AAA team during the last 17 years. The Latvian cabinet gave a green light to lay off the incumbent head (Mr Loskutovs) of the KNAB. The final decision is within parliament and one still does not know whether there will be "ten brave MP's" who would demand (according to the Saeima procedures) to add the issue of Mr Loskutovs into the emergency session tomorrow. On Sunday Latvian motley opposition have demanded the vote of no confidence on ministers of Defense and Agriculture.
Members of intelligentsia as well as opposition New Era (JL), Civic Union (PS), and Society for Other Politics (SCP) parties have asked supporters to come in front of the parliament and, thus with their presence express their support to KNAB as an institution that quite successfully started ridding the republic from the corruption cancer.
I am in Istanbul now but in my thoughts I am with my friends who will be in front of the parliament. Shall see how considerable was the increase of budding civil society since the Cappuccino revolution last October? Even though many experts do not expect multitude of civil society members in front of the Saeima due to the Summer vacation time, still I am convinced that tomorrow's venue will most certainly act as a prelude to the ominous referendum on August 2, 2008!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The parliamentary session this summer is continuing and most probably will turn out to be the longest in Latvian history. Latvian motley opposition collected 34 signatures to call for an emergency session of the Saeima. This coming Sunday Latvian MP's must decide whether the confidence in two members of the cabinet, the Ministers of Defense and Agriculture, is still there. The governing coalition, that has barely 53 votes in a 100 member parliament, decided that they also want to decide the fate of Mr Loskutovs on the same day. Saeima procedures prohibit adding another motion into the emergency session. The judicial commission of the parliament decided twice on the issue of vote of no - confidence about Mr Loskutovs. On June 20th with the head of the commission Ms Muižniece in abscentia the decision could not be reached because there was no quorum. When Ms Muižniece returned from Azerbaijan the same evening the judicial commission in the evening decided, without members of the opposition parties present, to move the motion of Loskutovs no-confidence to the emergency session. However, nobody knows exactly whether it will really happen on June 29.
Party political games are still played and the referendum that could lead to snap elections is decided to be held on August 2. Saeima must also decide what they will do with proposed changes in pension laws, and this motion could probably go to referendum later this summer. Also incumbent president, while meeting with people in Strenči ,asked his country men and wo men to actively participate in the August 2 referendum. Does it really mean that he also is tired of the present Saeima, or it is just his public relations stunt knowing that its is rather hard to get circa 750 000 AYE votes (half of the electors in Latvia) in the referendum? It is hard to say exactly, although I would argue that he simply tries to be nice to everyone now. After all nobody prohibits him from exercising his power to call for dissolution of the parliament right at this moment as it is written in the Art. 48 of the Satversme. Also the sociological polls since October 2007 show the ever declining trust of the electorate in their parties, government and parliament.
Alright, incumbent president waits till the referendum results, because it saves him from exercising the right to call for the tedious procedure of snap elections. He is cautious and his betting could be quite right - in any case publicly he was outspoken thus showing that he is for changes in the stagnant political culture. Just he forgets one aspect, that onerous action whilst exercising his powers could have saved him from the bad fame of tax evader, and he missed it:)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The PM decided to meet the president today but en route there his car collided with a minibus. After the accident Mr Godmanis was taken to the hospital with serious concussion and broken bone in his temple area reports LETA. According to the doctor Andrejs Pavārs from the Riga Hospital No.1 prime minister's condition is not serious, but he would not be able to return to his duties earlier than within a week.
In the meantime the Interior Minister Mareks Seglinš (TP) has lost his mind again (douze points!), because he sent a threatening sms message to the Diena journalist who dared to investigate affairs of People's Party (TP)! After his pronouncements last year he kept quiet for a while, but now such a sms message that would make any PM to demand his resignation. The Prime Minister is in hospital now, thus there is none to demand his resignation...
Latvian parliamentary motley opposition demanded resignation of the Minister of Defense and Minister of Agriculture. Reasons for such a request is the extremely vulnerable situation in fishing and dairy industries as well as pronouncements of Vinets Veldre (TP). The chair of the government was wobbling for some time already and now with the PM in the hospital would it really fall?
The governing coalition has 51+7 mandates in the parliament. Seven mandates has Fatherland Freedom party (TB/LNNK) and their leader Roberts Zīle already announced that his party members have a freedom to decide about Mr Loskutovs at their free will. The governing coalition does not have Mr Pabriks and Štokenbergs anymore, thus the QUESTION now is whether there will be solidification of the existing coalition with mandates from the Reconciliation Centre (SC) and Human Rights Party (FHRL)? Both SC and FHRL were vocal in their dissatisfaction about the existing government, and lets see whether it will also reflect in their voting behavior during upcoming days.
Friday, June 13, 2008
An oil was added to the fire by the Latvian Minister of Defense Vinets Veldre yesterday evening. The latter person is veterinarian by his education and became famous lately for openly lobbying controversial decision to establish an elite cavalry unit in the Latvian army. The reason why the cavalry issue became controversial is the fact that at times when economy is experiencing total slowdown the Minister of Defense found it reasonable enough to establish the cavalry unit and so lobbied his own horse breeding business.
But the reason I speak about controversial decisions of the previously mentioned minister is not a cavalry, or Ministry of Defense still funding sports clubs in Latvia but the speech of Minister Veldre yesterday. Like a lightening from the sky came the announcement of the Minister Veldre "about the decision of the governmental commission investigating job performance of Mr Loskutovs fundamentally made already, thus the reason why the commission will sit until next Tuesday is the fact that the decision should be made judicially sound. Minister Veldre (TP) "found" the issue of Mr Loskutovs "thus important", that instead of attending the NATO Defense Ministers meeting this week he delegated ministry officials to attend it instead.
Oops, and another member of governing majority did it! I am actually getting agitated about the childish mistakes members of governing coalition make (almost willing to shout out loudly douze point:). Luckily the PM backed off from such an announcement and asked the government members to decide at 2pm today, what shall they do with the Minister of Defense after all? The PM rather customarily reflecting the governance style of the present "pol. elite" announced that the Minister of Defense would stay in the commission investigating job performance of the KNAB head, because they do not see any breech of principles or conflicts of interest. Also the Head of the investigative Commission Prosecutor General Mr Maizītis asked the PM not to hurry with conclusions especially after Minister Veldre controversial announcement. Thus, Mr Maizītis asked for more time to investigate the substance of job performance of Mr Loskutovs and it was extended until next Thursday. Anyway, here one may simply conclude that principle of due process is not followed properly.
Therefore, one issue is clear. Every such clumsy and outright stupid announcement bypassing the rules and procedures that were previously agreed upon make the Latvian civil society more and more convinced that the "present political elite" is simply bankrupt. And all this happens during the day when Irish Taoiseach announced THE NEWS - majority of the 40% of eligible Irish voters said NO to the Lisbon Treaty. There is something to contemplate about now in most of the EU capitals, and we will definitely hear political elite's reflections next week after the heads of states convene in Brussels. The majority of the Latvian government members in the meantime are more concerned about their own benefits rather than the future of the continent, thus the never ending saga with the head of the Anti Corruption agency, isn't it funny:)
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
While living in his power bubble the member of the Union of Greens and Farmers Vilnis Edvīns Bresis (ZZS), contrary to the ethical standards of not proposing substantial amendments into the bill in its third and final reading, proposed to "screw" the Law on Prevention of money laundering and legalization of illegal financial funds last week. It is the bill that has been pending in the Latvian lawmakers corridors for years, and also Latvia's Western partners expressed their wish to see Latvian MP's passing their anti money laundering legislature already in 2005.
Contrary to the ethos of the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering, including terrorist financing the amendments of Vilnis Edvīns Bresis narrowed any possibility for Prosecutor's Office to solve not only the so called "Mafia cases" of Latvian minigarchic families, but also sizable financial scams. Previously mentioned amendments violated the previously mentioned directive. Thus, the utter changes were the reason why the incumbent president did not sign the dysfunctional bill into law and returned it back to the parliament. Thus, the same incompetent parliamentary majority (including "opposition" Reconciliation Party (SC)) who voted for the Vilnis Edvīns Bresis amendments, will have to reconvene next weeks in order to rid the law of the ill famed amendments (again, and they will receive additional salary for that:) until July 6 now.
Next week the governmental commission also must announce whether the Head of the Anti Corruption Agency (KNAB) Aleksejs Loskutovs wobbling chair would fall or not. The simultaneous wrangling around the money laundering law and governmental commission opining about suitability of Mr Loskutovs to continue his job looks suspicious. The governing People's Party (TP) must pay about 1mlj LVL fine (due to illegal election campaign in 2006) into the state treasury, and in case they get rid of Mr Loskutovs they might skip their virtual bankruptcy. Also Prime Minister's First and Latvian Way party Union (LPP/LC) must pay about half a million LVL into the treasury due to same reasons, and basically would have to follow the same track - bankruptcy. However, if the governmental commission has such members as the Defense Minister Vinets Veldre (TP) and the Head of the Saeima National Security Commission Dzintrs Jaundžeikars (LPP/LC) then I would not be so convinced as to predict due process in evaluating the job performance of Mr Loskutovs. After all the same Mr Jaundžeikars must discuss the suitability of Mr Loskutovs as the head of KNAB, while he openly tried to hush down his son's "drug n' driving" and considers the head of Latvian Intelligence Agency (SAB) Mr Kažociņš who is his co-discussant in the governmental commission unsuitable for the post.
Incompetence and greed to stay at power at any cost describes the present governing coalition. Latvia is governed by minigarchic families and their proxies in the parliament. It is very uneasy feeling among rather numerous members of civil society in Latvia. Parliamentary opposition in the parliament is too fractional at the present moment. The only hope is that those incompetent steps of the members of the governing coalition will reach their critical mass this summer and together with proposed referendum campaign would lead to snap elections later this year.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Parliamentarians also opened the way for the popular referendum about the constitutional amendments (Art. 78, 79) this summer (probably late July or early August). Should the referendum succeed, it would most probably lead to snap elections. In order to have a successful referendum there is a lot of work to be done, because 50% of eligible Latvian voters must say AYE to constitutional amendmends, and it is around 751 000 persons in Latvia. Fingers crossed, because changes are gradually setting in!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The emergency session and cross examining the PM in the parliament about the state of economy, that opposition parties demanded for today, is postponed until next Wednesday. And then there is the last day of tenure for the incumbent Head of the Supreme Court Mr Andris Guļāns today. The collegium of Latvian lawyers have designated Mr Ivars Bičkovičs for this position. The past of the latter person is not impeccable however. The media has found out that Mr Bičkovičs as an official was first denied access to the information shared by the NATO countries. Because paternity of Mr Bičkovičs is questionable investigative journalists found out that his mother got Latvian citizenship under rather questionable circumstances. Mr Bičkovičs is also not very keen to talk about the cases revealed in the national bestseller "Home made Adjudication", although he should considering the fact that the book showed the roots of corruption in the Latvian legal system. Regardless of his questionable ethical standards the Saeima judicial commission agreed on promoting him for the position of the new Head of the Supreme Court. Quick agreement on Mr Bičkovičs among the governing clique very much resembles the way how the governing clique found the incumbent president with questionable credentials (he officially admitted evading taxes). It means that from the onset the Supreme Head of the legal profession in Latvia would be manipulative due to his past. Several parliamentary majority members already showed their contempt for the voices raised in media about Mr Bičkovičs. Most of the governing clique conveniently forget that they squeezed into parliament due to illegal election campaign, and also the Senate of the Supreme Court on November 13, 2006 had the same opinion. So the question still stands, whether Mr Bičkovičs is going to be an independent head of the Supreme Court or a mere manipulative doll for the minigarchic families of Latvia?
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Latvian politics is still murky due to illegitimate parliamentary elections in 2006. Several politicians from the governing coalition already try to position themselves before the upcoming elections. Former rumours about the short lifespan of the incumbent government were approved by the Saeima Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee Mr Andris Bēržiņš (LPP). Being the member of the PM party he openly argued that there is alleged plot prepared to topple the existing PM from his office in October 2008. Actually it sounds like an announcement from a child trying to get attention from his peers. His announcement was discussed in the media for some time, but it rather expectedly calmed down.
Next Thursday the parliament must answer to the question - whether they will open the road to the referendum or they will accept the constitutional amendments proposed by the Union of Free Trade Unions? Next Wednesday the opposition New Era party want to know what is the government doing in order to reign in economic slowdown in Latvia. After those two questions answered the biggest question of contention will be on agenda - what to do with the proposed amendments in pension laws?
The Summer is going to be hot and I predict that it has all potential to lead to snap election in coming autumn. My reasoning for that I shall reveal in some forthcoming posts. In the meantime for those of you who read Latvian you may also read my thoughts about the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and its consequences on Latvian business environment in Dienas Bizness.
Friday, May 16, 2008
The total lack of trust of MP's and government among the electors is irrevocably lost and it can be regained only with painstaking work. Both government and MP's are not ready for that due to the row of scandals, and thus the only option left is snap elections.
The Saeima National Security Commission head Dzintars Jaundžeikars (this farmer got into parliament with a soft mandate) breech of constitution two days ago gave just another reason to call for early elections. Dzintars Jaundžeikars called the Head of Latvian public TV to closed and allegedly secretive meeting of the National Security Commission in the parliament. In the closed meeting he demanded Edgars Kots to answer questions about the contents of the Latvian TV evening news and explain why Latvian TV shows only negative news! While doing it Jaundžeikars breached Art. 100 of Satversme which clearly says that censorship is not allowed in Latvia! His colleague Gundars Daudze who happens to be the Speaker of the Saeima is as ignorant about the basic law of his represented country. After the previously mentioned scandal he suggested that the prevailing negativism should be stopped in the Latvian public TV evening news (Panorāma), and "that news could usually start with showing the good works of the government." Present Latvian nomenclature Mandarin class isn't even copying the Ukraine light model, but it is actually transplanting Mr Putin's governance style piece by piece...still sad
P.S. Rather ominously in http://www.diena.lv/ , http://www.apollo.lv/, http://www.delfi.lv/ many commentators have vocally discussed latest constitutional breaches. Among the most often asked questions was - when Latvian folks would finally get out on the streets of Riga and start demonstrating against illegally elected MP's and their corrupt politics?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
In the meantime government behaves like headless chicken. The PM has come out with ludicrous announcements ranging from arrest of the cruise liner Ms Mona Lisa until it has not paid all the dues, questioning authenticity of the results of the State Audit office that found that seven Latvian ministries failed to comply with law, to planning to ban private money lenders because according to Ivars Godmanis they do not follow the anti-inflation measures of the government.
The fact that government behaves like headless chicken is another reason, why is there referendum coming about changes in pension laws. Latvian cabinet continues its path dependency and it simply follows mechanistic policies without really understanding how they will affect the populace. The fact that economy is almost stalled and about 20 000 Latvian pensioners have problems to make their ends meet should make the government accept expansionary monetary measures. Latter measures would help to reinvigorate stalled economy, and thus help the economy to get out from slump. Latvian budget is outdated and stagnant, and the fact that social payments financed government budget deficits all these years is simply ludicrous. While Estonian government seriously thinks about cutting government expenditures their Latvian counterparts are still trying to find excuses for not cutting red tape!
Four ministers, with their state secretaries, undersecretaries and the rest of the staff should be abolished immediately. The E-secretariat functions belong to the ministry of transportation, social integration secretariat performs tasks of the ministry of justice, the child care ministry is the task ministry of welfare should actually do, and finally the European funds secretariat is nonsense, because why is there Ministry of Finance after all?
These four appendixes should GO first, after that there are myriad of state agencies nobody is really accountable for. Perhaps I am too harsh here and they are keeping books after all, but why the State Audit office finds irregularities in most of them again and again, and again... ? Instead of reforming the looming red tape the government is spreading horror stories about a possibility that stipulations in pension laws would initiate a collapse of the entire pension system. Answer to such a warning of the present political clique is ambivalent. First, in order to keep the pension system intact, government can finance their cronies in warm government positions and finance them at will from ever-increasing Social Fund. Second, the government does not say that proposed changes in pension system would subsequently bring with them also cutting the size of burgeoning red tape, and remodelling the Latvian administration, that has stagnated from its inception in 1991.
The present political elite in Latvia is simply incompetent (one may not find a better symbol for such "an elite" than the present Prime Minister) and they are sitting like lame ducks and wondering where they have lost their legitimacy!!?? Remember Peoples Party (TP) and Latvian First Party (LPP/LC) fellas - it was in September 2006 when you stole elections, and remember the ominous Supreme Court Senate ruling as of 13 of November, 2006 stating that illegal election campaign of aforementioned parties broke the law! Now Godmanis, Kalvītis, Šlesers, Brigmanis, Daudze & the rest of buddies you pay for that with total lack of legitimacy in the eyes of Latvian electors.
There is no other way out of this mess - just snap elections!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
In the Latvian TV evening news (Panorāma) the Head of Latvian Central Election Bureau Mr Atis Cimdars approved that during last two days there was an amount of 30% of previously collected signatures collected (30% of 135000= 45000), thus repeating the trend that took place exactly a year ago. The TVNET website, while basing its information on LETA news agency just announced that preliminary final number of signatures would be somewhere around 180 000.
It is early Friday morning and in his radio interview the Head of Latvian Central Election Bureau confirmed his yesterday's predictions about increasing trend of signatures during last two days. Now, the preliminary number stands at 213 000 signatures, LETA just reported.
P.S. Those of you reading Estonian may find my commentary in Postimees today.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
In the meantime, tomorrow there is the day of reckoning for the Transport Supremo. Opposition New Era party (JL) demanded the vote of non confidence about Mr Šlesers because of his incompetence whilst overseeing the work of the Latvian Post Plc., impeding competition in RIX, allowing mismanagement and not providing competition in Latvian road building sector etc, etc.
Transport Supremo studied in the same school I went, the Riga Secondary School No. 25. Differently from most of us he finished elementary school at No. 25, and further continued in vocational school. He was a grade older than me and I do remember how Mr Lešinskis (he took his wife's surname after the marriage) was very active selling jeans and other items at school in the late 1980's. He is a good manager, and he actually fits well into the post-Soviet management culture in Latvia. The major tenet of such "management culture"is that the you cannot manage anything without political networks, and state administrative capacity is undermind with the lack of transparent rules.
Such management culture still thrives in Latvia, but simulataneous challenges from globalization (trade and financial liberalization) and EU legal norms turn the "traditional Latvian management culture" into a drag on economy. Changes are in the air and Transport Supremo should better think about exiting from politics. Actually, today's Kas notiek Latvijā TV show is devoted solely to the question of "to be or not to be transport supremo". It is going to be a good show and update would probably follow.
The TV debates ended with the usually high number (7902) of telephone voters saying that Transport Supremo is simply not up to his task. Opponents to such opinion were scanty 300. There is an opinion that teledebate has no direct effect on the way realpolitik works. Obviously in the parliamentary system minister should not resign just because spectators in some TV debate deem it right. Nevertheless, temperature of the public opinion is a very serious factor for stability of the government in "old democracies" and I would argue that increasingly so also in "new democracies". If not Kas notiek Latvijā show we would not have even budding civil society today. Every quality discussion I believe gradually brakes the untouchable oriole of Latvian politicians and civil servants. In effect the teledabate was created for upgrading the culture of political discussion in Latvia, and those were prominent intelligentsia members who promoted creation of Kas notiek Latvijā.
For the sake of the signature collection campaign the manner Mr Šlesers rebuked arguments of opposition actually worked well. The fact is that Transport Supremo proved that he has learned only couple of maxims of Machiavellian politics - to avoid answers to direct questions with auxiliary "number crunching" and to speak eloquently. In fact Mr Šlesers "number crunching" looked silly and his eloquent speech is balancing on shallow demagoguery. In addition it was just sick to hear his Communist Youth style bragging about the megalomaniac plans to have roads better that in Estonia in five years whilst the latest report of IMF(pp.85-88) just came in. Transport Supremo is not just academically unprepared (he does not have university degree), but he is also caught unawares about the fact that Machiavelli usually stressed the virtue of promoting interests of res publica and not just una famiglia!!!
Whilst answering about the sorry state of the Latvian Post Plc, his excuse was that there are too many redundant workers and that he tried to get more help from the government, and that he succeeded in this endeavour. Talking about the sorry state of Latvian Roads Plc, lack of competition in road building his excuse was absolute under financing of Latvian roads before him, because Mr Repše (New Era party) had liquidated state roads financial fund, and the fact that European companies are not interested to enter into the small Latvian market. Direct questions from opposition members were not answered.
In nutshell following questions were asked. Ceteris paribus, while costs of road building in the Baltic states are almost the same, why is it so that street signs and 1 km or road expenses are twice as expensive in Latvia, why sand expenses in Latvia are twice as expensive in Lithuania, why Finnish and Swedish raodbuilders work in Estonian market that is actually smaller than Latvia??? All these questions were unanswered and I am sure the scattered opposition members will repeat the same questions tomorrow in the Saeima where they have initiated the Minister of Transport vote of non confidence.
In the meantime the coalition still looks rock solid and even opposition Reconciliation Party said that they would not support the vote of non confidence, because ...guess what?? You are right, because Mr Šlesers is the only minister who supports allowing non-citizens to participate in municipal elections!!! Such thing as consistency of issues debated in any municipal council or in Saeima, or rational policy making is simply ABSENT so far...still sad:(
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Representatives from the Association of Free Trade Unions believe that they might count also circa 11 000 signatures that allowed to start the signature collection campaign. This hope might turn out to be misleading, however, because the most active and responsible part of civil society usually do the signing sometimes without properly following for what is it really for, because they stand for a cause. For example, I did not know that my signature for initiation of the signature campaign would count also for the campaign that would end day after tomorrow.
It means, that in order to be on the safe side, the Association of Free Trade Unions and civil society at large must collect at least 24 thousand additional votes till April 10, 2008.
It is Wednesday noon and vDiena reports that people stand in queues in order to sign to initiate the referendum that would bring constitutional amendments in Latvia. Already in Tuesday evening news several prominent opinion makers (Sallija Benfelde, Kārlis Streips and Askolds Rodins) called citizens to really think about the significance of the upcoming referendum.
Pessimism prevails among civil society members, especially seeing how marketing strategy serves the purpose of the red coloured rag for the consumer in Stockmann crazy arenas in Riga and Tallinn today. In the meantime someone is still humorous these days, including Diena cartoonist Ernests who's "kalvitis" announces : "I reckon than in order to promote the Latvian entertainment industry, we gotta join forces with Russia and create another TV show..." ...."and dance after the GAZPROM doodle/"
The Saeima emergency session just ended, where scattered opposition demanded the government with their project to have a clear answer, not to drop the coal and biomass powered station construction from government medium planning documents and to start immediately working on the planning document. Majority of parliamentarians after the Ivars Godmanis speech, where he promised a detailed answer about Latvian long term energy policy in his 100 days in the office speech, said NAY to the opposition project. The project was a bit too vague I should say, but at least there is more clarity now about where Latvia stands prior amendments in the Energy bill should be voted into law in Saeima on April 10, 2008.
The project, most importantly, does not bar construction of the coal and biomass powered electricity station. The question about state guarantees (using public funds) to the gas powered station is still open. Funniest part of the proposed amendments is at the end of the document. On questions whether social partners were questioned, or whether public was informed about amendments, there is a blunt answer NO! Also, quite interestingly in the list of NGO's who were involved discussing aforementioned amendments are Latvijas Gāze Ltd and Latvenergo Plc.....