Tag Archives: elections 2010

The year 2010 in Latvia

Only few days have left till New Years day. The year 2010 will end bringing new year for us all. People will remember this year as time of stabilization and time of new challenges.  This year in Latvia was important as the election year and year of hopes of getting out of the crisis. Government worked hard to stabilize economy and keep good relations with international creditors. Also more steps was done to set new path in relations with Russia, will it bring something good for us – the time will tell. Year 2010 was also year of climate troubles for Latvia, the hot summer and harsh winter also the spring flooding. Luckily Latvia escaped harsher climate disasters that Russia experienced but global climate change will not spare Latvia in the future.

In this post we will see the main events in Latvia that happened here in Latvia in year 2010.

Election year

Elections was serious event for all political players in Latvia. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis from New Era party wanted to keep his seat after elections. But it was not an easy task since his strong rivals such as Harmony Centre wanted to win elections as well. The party ratings showed that current  government parties may lose elections and that could mean swift changes. To prevent such outcome three parties joined together and formed party union called Unity. It was formed from New Era party, Civic Union and Society for Different policy. Ironically the Civic Union was mostly formed from deserters from New Era party now they united again. SDP was even questionable project because it was formed from deserters of Peoples Party- New Era main rival. Peoples Party was conservative right force but SDP waged leftist liberal ideology. So Unity was a project to keep current coalition in power.

The Green Farmers union lead by Major of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs felt comfortable enough to go on their own. The two nationalist parties For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and All for Latvia! wanted to join Unity but were kept behind. So they decided to join forces together. It was a union of old and new. Fatherland and Freedom was the veterans of Latvian politics. They were part of almost every government. But because that they became bureaucratic and stagnate and lost popularity. All for Latvia! on the other hand was formed from mostly young generation idealists with no real experience in politics. For long time they were kept behind but their popularity grow steadily because of support from young generation voters. Both parties needed each other: Fatherland and Freedom needed to stay in parliament, the loss of Major seat in Riga showed bad prospects for them. All for Latvia! needed to finally enter real politics. Before they were known as marchers, singers and protesters but they strived for something more than protesting naked in frost against Latvia- Russia border agreement.

All these parties opposed the Harmony Centre- an union of pro-Russian parties. For 20 years Russian speaking politicians were left behind front politics. But now because of fall of popularity of Latvian parties and fanatical support of Russian voters the Centrer hoped for victory. They posed themselves as leftist party that opposes right party rule that could not handle the crisis. By this they hoped to attract Latvian voters with leftist feelings. However their leader Jānis Urbanovičs confused everyone when he warned of “Bishkek in Riga” if his party will be in opposition again. He was referring to revolution in Kyrgyzstan that resulted in ethnic violence. After that he had trouble to explain whether he was warning of ethnic conflict between Russians and Latvians or he was talking about social riots.

The elections brought surprise for Harmony Centre. Before the declared that are 100% sure that they will win. But it was the Unity who scored 31% of vote and grabbed 33 seats. Unity won because of promises to keep Latvia stable  and get everyone out of the crisis. Also majority of Unity voters voted to keep Harmony Centre out of the government. It was an ethnic vote but  the voters of Harmony Centre  was no better, they stripped out almost all Latvian candidates from the party to get more Russians in the parliament. Harmony Centre won 29 seats. But Green Farmers Union won the jackpot- the 22 seats meant that they could enter any government and overthrow if they wish. In Aivars Lembergs hands now lays the fate of current government by Valdis Dombrovskis. National Union won 8 seats. But old Fatherland and Freedom won only 2 seats the rest was given to All for Latvia! Nationalist voters wanted new blood in the parliament. From them the most youngest deputy in Latvian history Jānis Dombrava was elected at age 22. Also in the same ranks the oldest deputy Visvaldis Lācis a war veteran and publicist was elected at age 86.

Latvian nation allowed Valdis Dombrovskis to keep his coalition. But it turned out not so easy as it seemed to be. Dombrovskis did not wanted to disappoint Harmony Centre and keep them loyal. At first he offered cooperation deal to them, but then allowed them to join coalition. However to this they must finally recognise the occupation of Latvia and withdraw the demand for Russian language as second official language. These were demands they were not ready to met and choose to stay in comfortable opposition where the can criticise the government as they did last 4 years. Dombrovskis had also trouble setting things with nationalists. Many people in Unity were afraid from young idealists from All for Latvia! To keep them out of the coalition their rivals made campaign against them. They were accused of  cooperation with Chechen Mafia and anti-Semitism. All this accusations were false but was enough to keep them in opposition. So first in Latvian history the coalition was formed from only two political forces- Unity and Green Farmers.  Biggest losers of this all was union between Peoples party and Latvia First Party who won 8 seats despite their massive costly election campaign. Ainars Slesers who was the vice-Major of Riga now became only a deputy. It was a failure for both oligarchs Slesers and Andris Skele who were man of importance for many years.

The economy

Since 2008 Latvia had signed deal with International Monetary Fund, EU Commission ad World Bank that summed credits to save the government from bankruptcy. Surely the creditors interfered much in Latvian affairs and some parties wanted to change the deal. First of them was Peoples party that wanted to cancel the deal or at least revise it. This was an election trick to attract anti-creditor voters. Peoples party voted against the authorization for the government to deal with creditors, but since Harmony Centrer did not participate in the vote, the authorization was accepted.

Since than Peoples Party and Latvia First Party that joined in the union called For Good Latvia strived to cancel deal with the creditors. Similar propaganda came from  Harmony Centre who offered the “vast economical possibilities”” from Russia. In short they wanted turn Latvia from West to East. All of this was bitterly opposed by Unity who promised to keep contacts with creditors. In the end Unity opinion won.

But the main concern was the state budget. Last time in 2009 right after the municipal elections the  government made sudden changes and made big cuts in pensions and social payments. Unity promised not to do this again in after next election, but it was a hard promise to keep since it was clear that large cuts are still needed to balance the state deficit.

After the elections despite promising not to rise the taxes government raised  value added tax from 21% to 22%. Also the tax for private property was also raised. However, there should be no illusions that this would not happened if Harmony Centre would be in charge. They would do the same because economic situation would not allow any other option. That is a reality in politics that before the election there is one reality, after them there is other.

Hard situation in economy has led to bitter problem- “the shadow economics”. Business companies and taxpayers choose to not pay punitive taxes and make large illegal fortunes.

Despite all of that last year brought the growth of 2,7 % of the  GDP. Industry has started to grow in Latvia also. However in fields such as book publishing and culture things are not so good because of taxes and cuts in education and culture. National book publishing is at risk in Latvia today.

Scandals

It would not be Latvia without scandals and affairs. One of the most scandalous ant-government protest was so called Neogate. It all started when one gifted PC specialist discovered a hole in the State Revenue Service database. He then decided to publish the payment register of state owned services. He called himself Neo and communicated with the public using Twitter. He revealed that despite government calls to cut pays in state sector , state officials still received large pays despite the crisis. It was another let down by the government who could cut pays for teachers and doctors but could not cut their own spending. State police declared that Neo is a criminal and caught him after three months. But not only the Neo was arrested by the police but also a state television journalist who first revealed that there is a leak in the Revenue Service database. It turned out that Neo is academic worker in University of Latvia Ilmārs Poikāns. He was freed very soon but the police search in journalist apartment left a shadow on the freedom of press in Latvia.

Another scandal took place in The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. The director of the Bureau Normunds Vilnītis had been know for his authoritative job style and was hated by other top workers in the bureau. Finally the accused him of attempting to destroy the bureau and wrote a report containing 60 accusations for him. It was clear that Bureau is not capable of doing their task because of deep mistrust between boss and his colleges.  However Vilnītis sees no problem in his work and is not ready to step down. In January parliament commission will decide what to do with the bureau workers.

During the year the media constantly watched the events in state airline AirBaltic. Its director Bertolds Fliks is an attractive businessman from Germany who is know for making scandalous schemes all year round. First he secretly bought the AirBaltic brand after it was revealed the Minister of Transportation demanded to give it back. He also wanted to make his private airline in Lithuania that would be rival for AirBaltic. He used airline planes for his private flights. In this all he saw no problem and why should he? The airline legislation is so good to him that only Fliks can remove himself from the office.

Foreign Relations

Most important matter in Latvian foreign affairs was relations with Russia. Russian government had invited Latvian president Valdis Zatlers to Moscow and all year round preparations for the visit was underway. Since Latvia regained independence there has been a tensions in both country relations. In 1994. Russia and Latvia agreed on withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Latvia. On 2006. both sides signed border agreement. It was met with angry protests since Latvian government lead by Aivars Kalvītis decided to give up all claims on lost city of Abrene now known as Pytalova. Abrene was border town that Soviet Russia handed over to Latvia in 1920. However, after occupation of Latvia in 1944 Abrene was annexed in Russia Soviet Socialist Republic and after 1991. remained in Russian side. Despite this rather shameful agreement the situation on Latvian-Russian border is worse. Transit trucks going on route from Russia to Europe always gets stuck on border checkpoints. Eastern side of Latvia is plagued by Russian contraband that is harming Latvian economy.

Russia has always troubled Latvia with claims of harsh discrimination of Russian minority. Life for Russians in Latvia certainly is no harder than Central Asia of Chehnya  were Russians are fleeing to Russia. Russians can watch Russia TV channels in Latvia and use of Russian language is not prohibited. In fact Russians are eagerly enforcing Latvians to speak Russian causing conflicts on both sides. This means that Russia is using Latvian Russians as tools for their geopolitical games. Russia certainly hoped for Russian party victory in elections, but after their failure it seemed that Zatlers will not be going to Moscow this year. However, with help of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Zatlers with large delegation of 120 people went to Moscow right before Christmas.  He was greeted warmly, but no important deals were signed. However both sides praised this visit and Russian gas giant Gazprom even lowered gas tariffs for Latvia. It is question what vent on behind the scenes on Latvian-Russian talks. Lets hope they were more civilised than talks with Stalin in 1939, when Molotov declared that Latvian foreign minister will not leave Kremlin until he gives up to Soviet demands.

Next important question was Latvian partnership in international mission in Afghanistan. Just right after the elections the parliament had to decide whether to continue participation in the mission. Leftists and Green Farmers wanted to remove troops from Afghanistan. It was important theme in election campaign but right after the election the parliament decided to extend Latvian partnership in the mission.  Latvian soldiers are doing various tasks in the war torn country. Last task was to educate Afghan soldiers. Latvian men took part in rough battles with Taliban and received public praise from parents of US soldiers whose life’s were saved by Latvians.

Mysterious and loud event happened in December in Sudan. Latvian civil support helicopter crew was taken hostage by local insurgents. Latvian government showed stiffness in handling the crisis. It was because of lack of experience in such situations. After few weeks it was declared that crew was rescued in international rescue mission. However, soon media spread rumours that crew had broken out of the captivity themselves. The managed to grab weapons from the captors and get to nearest rescue point on their own. Latvian Foreign Ministry is still reluctant to reveal the truth. This event shows the weakspots of Latvian diplomacy.

Climate extremes in Latvia

The year of 2010 was the year of extremes in Latvia. A very cold Winter replaced with never seen before hot summer disrupted the usual temperate climate in Latvia.

The winter was cold and lowered the temperature by 27 Celsius. Last 10 years winters were usually moderate. But this time it brought terrible cold and lots of snow meaning transport troubles. It also froze many water pipes in Riga. Most notoriously it was water pipe breakdown in March when German Rock band Rammstein arrived at Riga. They planed to stage great concert with stunning fire effects. But on the same time water pipe broke down removing anti-fire support at the concert hall. Fire department demanded to cancel the concert or at least not to use thefire effects. The band and concert organizers resisted and concert went on with all the dangerous fire works. It all turned fine but fire department was shocked of such risky event.

The next biggest trouble occurred in Spring. All that snow and ice started to melt starting floods in lower areas. Jelgava was flooded completely other areas were flooded also. Luckily most riskiest areas at Pļaviņas and Jekabpils were spared.

The airport of Riga was also disturbed by volcanic ash from Iceland. Flights were cancelled for a long time.

The cold winter and hot summer was an paradise for mosquitoes who showed up in thousands. All summer they disturbed everyone who wanted to spend time outdoors at summer sun. The summer was hottest in decades. Temperature rose up to 30 degrees. Luckily Latvia escaped the hellish forest fires that occurred in Russia. Latvia send fire brigade to help Russians to extinguish the forest fires.

Right now the winter has returned, it is not yet as cold as the last one but is has again brought tons of snow, disturbing the traffic. A never seen before phenomenon the freezing rain that showed up in Christmas brought trouble for electric lines and communications.

These were the most interesting events in Latvia at year 2010. There is more to write about culture and other things in Latvia. Latvia has gone trough crisis in past two years and is hoping for recovery. The next year is Cat year, Cat is calm and smart animal lets hope his wise and calm temper will help Latvia next year.

 

 

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Election Turnout 2010

The elections that happened yesterday 2. October have ended. While there is still some counting going on in Riga the results are almost certainly clear. This elections will go down in history in many ways. First only 13 parties run for election that is pretty low for Latvia since in 20. century twenties more than 60 parties had participated in elections. Second the elections will make parliament less fragmented for the first time since most parties formed unions. Only 62% people of Latvian population voted in elections. That is second lowest score since 2006. However a surprisingly large numbers of Latvian citizens voted abroad. The emigrants in Europe, USA and Australia also casted their votes for Latvian parties.

Many saw that victors of this election will be leftist pro-Russian party Harmony Center. However this has not happened – the liberal right party union Unity have come first with 30% of votes. Harmony Center won 25% of votes thanks to the high popularity in Latgallia and Riga. Green Farmers Union have made success by gaining 19% mainly thanks for the high support in rural agricultural areas. Also thanks to their PM candidate Aivars Lembergs who is overwhelmingly popular in Courland and rest of Latvia. Lembergs himself did participated in elections but posed himself as best candidate for PM nomination. PM is nominated by President of Latvia. Union of two past victor parties For Good Latvia (PLL) have failed their expectations. Only 7,5% is stunning defeat for their leaders Ainars Slesers and Andris Skele. A positive result was for national conservative union  All for Latvia!/For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. Both parties won 7,5% of the votes. It’s mainly a success for All for Latvia! because its their first entry in parliament. However it’s not still clear how many seats will they share with their senior colleges but its a room for surprises since All for Latvia! voters are eager to push their favorites above Fatherland and Freedom candidates.

One party has left the prime political scene. Russian national party For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL) collected only 1% of votes. Harmony Center have finally beaten their inner rivals by taking PCTVL voters to their side. This has happened since Russian electorate had high hopes for victory so they concentrated their votes on strongest Russian force. PCTVL still has seats in prestige EU parliament and few municipalities but their future now seems uncertain.

No other new force has not entered parliament. It’s because the so-called “small parties” had nothing new to offer and have small funds to finance the campaign. Latvian leftist union “Responsibility” failed to achieve past glory of Latvian left that dominated from 1920 to 1934. A rather interesting project was “Last Party” that offered original almost anarchistic ideas but because of  their humorous campaign they achieved low popularity.

Clearly the voters of the Harmony Center will not be satisfied. Since the stunning victory in Riga municipal elections party prepared for whole state victory. The polls showed their victory for many months. When “Unity” was formed their ratings deceased but they still showed victory. However after exit polls that showed success for “Unity” first signs of surprise and resentment was seen on the faces of their leaders. It has turned out that in mainly Latvian populated regions Harmony Center had low popularity. That showed that widespread Latvian support for Harmony Center was a mere exaggeration. However the situation was saved by large support from voters in Latgallia and Riga. These two parts are densely populated by Russian speaking voters. In result they won more percent and seats than in 2006. so the result can be viewed as success for them. However a second place is never enough for victory hungry Russian voters. Russians always have trouble accepting second whether its hockey or politics. Harmony Center still has hope for coalition if “Unity” or ZZS would want to work with them. By doing however they will betray their voters who voted to prevent Harmony Center victory.

So it’s highly possible that current PM Valdis Dombrovskis will be named by the President as new PM candidate. “Unity” will form the coalition with ZZS and VL!/TB/LNNK and keep Harmony Center and PLL in opposition. They will have enough seats to do so and that what their voters want. However if ZZS leader Ainars Lembergs will have some dirty tricks on his sleeve things could change. It is also a question how many seats would both national parties VL and TB/LNNK will share. Some liberal experts fear that VL! will gain more seats than senior TB/LNNK and will put a new tone in parliamentary politics. However their main demand is not allow Harmony Center in to coalition and not to make anti-national laws. These demands can be met by both sides. If “Unity” and ZZS will not go to intimate with Harmony Center the conflicts can easily avoided.

If “Harmony Center” will stay in opposition they will be allot more comfortable when the new state budget will be arranged. They have spent time warning people from drastic austerity measures by “Unity” that will make even deeper cuts than before. If they lead the government they are almost certainly to make budget cuts for themselves. That way they will deceive their most naive supporters. Harmony Center still has a large base of supporters from Russian speaking mass but its a question how long will they wait for their promised takeover? And what will be a response of the Kremlin that pushed  large funds to promote Russian victory?

For the PLL future looks grim. Both old-time winners Peoples Party and Latvian First Party joined themselves together to avoid failure to reach 5% barrier. The attempt of union was successful in terms of keeping both parties alive but expectations were more than real gains. Union used large amount of money to push large voting campaign to get voters attention. Every possible way was used from illegal to legal. Supposedly neutral debates with “experts” were held in independent television network that visibly propagandized PLL agenda. Even when official candidate debates were held in this same channel everything was done to give PLL orators better questions. The director of the television was member of PLL so it high pressure to show PLL to people. Ainars Slesers used the service of his long time friend Eriks Stendzinieks a talented commercial manager to promote his campaign. So far Stendzinieks had tremendous success in election campaigns in 2006 and in 2009. He created so-called “Positivism Campaign” a third party commercials for Peoples Party candidates. He made Slesers a “rocket” and “bulldozer” a tough family man. However when a compromising book was published on Slesers family past, Stendzinieks advised Slesers to cry in public. Stendzinieks gave a large amount of a work in this campaign but its seems that Latvian public has had enough of him and Slesers. It is also a stunning defeat for Slesers who decided to quit his vice-major office to gain PM or at least Finance Minister seat in next government. Now its likely that he will remain as simple opposition deputy a bitter failure for man who lusts for power and action. Likely its a failure for ex-president of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis who rejoined politics and gave high hopes for election. He has disgraced his good name to many who despise PLL. It’s a mystery why well-funded ex-president in senior years yearns for deputy seat for he had the highest seat of the state for 8 years. So PLL is a failed political concept and could decay if they are saved by return of nations support.

The election has proven that majority of Latvian voters want stability. They know that “Unity” had its bad moments and will have in the future, but they have made stabilization measures that saved from deep fall that started in the reign of PLL. Voters also don’t want a rapid change to the east and rise of leftist government. It’s clear that people want to continue stabilization process and don’t want to put at risk by giving to leftists and oligarchs.  Also the election had shown that national factor remains strong as before because of ethnic votes for “Unity” and “Harmony Center”. Nationalism ideology is still strong in one part of the voters who elected the national conservatives.

The election turnouts have possibility to continue the way of Latvia on the right track.

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Parliamentary elections in Latvia 2010

Next Saturday at 2. October  parliamentary elections will be held in Latvia. Parliament in Latvia is called Saeima. This word comes from ancient Latvian gatherings were local nobles held state meetings. In 1922. first Saeima elections were held. Since then nine Saeima’s have worked in Latvia in both periods of independence.  First four Latvian parliaments worked from 1922. to 1934. when Karlis Ulmanis took power by coop and dissolved the parliament.  This elections will have historic effect on future of Latvia. This article will show the main contestants in election their promises and real face.

In modern times Parliament is working since 1992. Many common difficulties have been shared since first 20 decades of independence. Parliaments have been fragmented by many parties that makes short-lived governments. Instability because of party rivalry slows things for Latvia especially in times of financial crisis.  Last parliament could fulfill dream of any Anarchist because the its have lost any creditability in the eyes of Latvian nation. Only 10% of Latvian people trust the parliament.

The winners of last election were Peoples Party (Tautas Partija TP) and Latvian First Party/Latvian Way. (LPP/LC) Both parties won election because of massive and fraudulent election campaign. Peoples Party leader Aigars Kalvitis promised seven fat years for Latvia if nothing stupid would not be done. But that is what exactly his party was doing. Both parties used relative economic growth to heath up the economy to the maximum. Banks had free hand to flood the country with loans. Latvian nation was living on credits hoping that economy is strong enough to repay them. Leader of LPP/LC Ainars Slesers declared that gas pedal needs to pushed at full strength.  Both parties planted the seeds for the financial crisis. The ignored the warnings of economic heath up and credit and real estate bubble. Now when this have happened both parties suffer from high unpopularity and mistrust. So to avoid defeat they joined themselves and formed new alliance called For Good Latvia (PLL). Party criticizes the present government lead by Valdis Dombrovskis from Unity of close corporation with International Monetary Fund. However it was LPP PM Ivars Godmanis and TP finance minister Atis Slakteris who first signed deal with IMF. They also blame Dombrovskis for lying to nation that pensions will not be cut. Instead after municipal elections last year pensions were cut leaving resentment in Latvian public. But in that time TP was part of the government.   In fact TP left government when they realized that more unpopular decisions will endanger  their chances of getting seats in next parliament. The leader of PLL Ainars Slesers have pushed ambitious policy for years. He always wanted Prime Minister seat but always stayed second.  Last year he run for Major office of Riga but became Vice-Major. Now he is having heavy task of getting both scapegoat parties of task of getting at least 10 seats in parliament. If both parties wouldn’t joined together they almost surely would not pass 5% barrier. PLL is giving all forces to win election, they have taken control over Latvian Independent Television (LNT) that shows positive information about them. Its responsibility of Latvian voters if they want to see the builders of crisis four more years in parliament.

Their main rival is Unity (Vienotība). The union is based on three parties. New Era (Jaunais Laiks JL) party is main core.  JL came to politics when Einars Repse the president of Latvian State Bank decided to come to politics. They won elections in 2002. but because of inability to reach consensus with other parties they lost power and lost many seats in 2006. When TP and LPP/LC failed Valdis Dombrovskis took power in most deepest point of crisis. He was forced to make drastic decisions but his actions stabilized the economy. Two other parties are formed from separatists from JL, TP and TB/LNNK. Civic Union (Pilsoniskā Savienība) is result of split from JL and nationalist party TB/LNNK. Party joined JL formed coalition. When election year came closer they realized that they need to re-unite with JL to get better results. Third party Society for Different Policy (Sabiedrība citai Politikai) evolved when two TP old-time members Artis Pabriks and Aigars Stokenbergs were kicked out for disloyalty. So they formed new party on leftist basis. Despite this they joined Unity which is right-wing party. The main reason why these three parties united is possibility that pro-Russian party Harmony Center will win the election. So to get more seats for Latvian parties they united together.

However there were two parties who wanted to join Unity but were left behind. These were two nationalist parties For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) and All for Latvia! (VL!) TB/LNNK are veterans of Latvians politics from very beginning in early nighties. They have taken part in nearly all Latvian governments. They ideology is based on nationalism and Latvian superiority. The address the problems of dangers for  Latvian language and openly speak against Russian  population and interests of Russia. Their weakest point is that they have been on top side for too long and have taken part in unpopular decisions. Their leader is EU Parliament deputy Roberts Zile. Zile is experienced economist a splendid polemic who always have the right answers. Zile is second best choice for PM office however is not sure whether he prefers work in Brussels more than House of Ministers. All for Latvia is formed of young generation nationalists. Their average age is 20 to 35. Their leader is Raivis Dzintars an inspiring young leader full of idealism and wisdom. VL! is more nationalist than their senior partners but  are not necessary radical. They are known for openly supporting veterans of Latvian Waffen SS Legion. They are visible in national celebrations when  they make marches with Latvian flags torches.  So far they had little luck in elections so they joined forces with TB/LNNK. VL! needs recognition in middle and older generation voters to gain better results.

Latvian Greens and Farmers Union (Latvijas Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība) or simply green farmers did not have any desire to join forces with Unity. Their rating has remained surprisingly stable despite the difficulties. Their leader is odious Major of Venstpils Aivars Lembergs. Lembergs is rich oil and shipping tycoon. He is named as most influential oligarch in Latvian politics. He is accused of widespread corruption, massive bribing of state politicians but despite that he is Major of Ventspils and most popular PM candidate. He has fanatic supporters in all Latvia. It would be interesting to see how he could manage work as PM and took part in corruption trial at single time. The party itself remains popular in rural areas. Party have taken responsibility for agriculture last twenty years. During this time they have made mistakes especially in coordination with EU agricultural policy. Agricultural minister Martins Roze destroyed sugar-beet industry with a free hand and put milk industry at risk. He only resigned when farmers in large masses blocked Riga with tractors and combines.

But the main contestant for victory is Harmony Center (Saskaņas Centrs SC). The left-wing party is based on various Russian parties lead by Janis Urbanovits. So far Russian parties never got chance to enter coalition.  But the growing size of Russian voters and declining popularity of right-wing Latvian parties have put them on the top of ratings.  Party is openly Pro-Moscow, they have official ties with Vladimir Putin party United Russia and China Communist Party. They promise stronger ties with Russia and wants to revise the talks with IMF. They want Russian language as second official language in Latvia.   Party is supported by national oriented Latvian Russians and Latvians who have nostalgia for times of Soviet occupation. Many promises of this party are biased like help from Russian economy that is weaker and unstable than its described. They promise not to make any more budget cuts despite the obvious reality that government needs to save 500 million lats for next year. If they form the government they will be forced to make unpopular decisions. So far they were comfortable in opposition criticizing the coalition acting like the saints. If they make in coalition and win the PM seat their real face will be shown. It’s the question if they are ready for this or they rather spend time in opposition once again.   In time of 1920.-1934. Latvian Social democratic party won every election but was unable to form coalition because they were afraid of disgracing themselves by working together with right-wing parties.

Another Russian party is For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL). They are openly Russian nationalist and have little chance to attract Latvian voters. For many years they were the main Russian political force in Latvia until Harmony Center took the upper hand. It seems they also have lost the favor of Kremlin. The election is dead and life question for them if they fail to pass 5% barrier they are likely to split and vanish from political stage.

These are potential parties that probably pass the 5% barrier and win seats in next parliament. This could be first time in Latvian history when left-wing Russian party may took power in their own hands. Or in other case if Latvian parties get more seats the things will go on usual. The biggest danger for Latvia is the rise of populist parties that will make country more unstable. Harmony Center are likely to form coalition with PLL that will mean the union of leftists and oligarchs. If Unity wins the upper hand and forms coalition with Green Farmers and Nationalists then Latvia may not have to go though any traumatic changes. The result will be known on 3. October. Latvians have 5 days to decide their country’s future.

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