Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sacking politics, witch doctors and the Ubermother

Overshadowed by the terrorist attack in Norway, almost 700 000 voters in Latvia voted by almost 95% to sack their parliament, the Saeima, on Saturday. Not that the event would have gotten all that much attention without Norway. When these domestic political dramas occur, Latvians think the whole world (or Europe, at least) is terribly interested and even take mild offense when little or nothing is reported in the foreign media.
By contrast, when foreign analysts, advisors, educators or whatever show up and sometimes mildly, sometimes frankly suggest to Latvians that they have let their country become a corrupt, incompetent or "best of both" socially and economically disintegrating soon-to-be "Osteuropa" (in the bad sense) backwater -- then of course, shut up, we know best, you didn't live here for those 50 years, who are you and basically we are a planet of our own.
So now we have one end result of that defensive arrogance bred by a simmering inferiority complex. As Arnis Kaktiņš, an astute political analyst and opinion pollster said, the near-95% vote could also be considered a total rejection of the political system and most, if not  all that has happened in Latvia over the past 20 years. Pretty impressive. But what next, what then?
As many as 300 000 Latvians have already made a choice and moved to other countries that are better able to govern themselves. Not perfectly, by far, but producing far better results, basically by doing for years and, in some cases, decades or even a century or two, that which all those foreign know-it-alls were talking about for those same 20 years, when the outside world was giving Latvia its share of aid and advice.
Some of the advice was about matters that cost nothing -- like not stealing and wasting taxpayer money. Like not running the institutions of governance like a cross between "lets have a nostalgia for Soviet-style bureaucracy day five days a week" and the game of "who is the biggest cretin?". Like not making both petty and awesome scale bribe-taking pretty much standard procedure.
So we are left with a largely failed state, society and economy. too poor to pay for decent police or education or medical care, but merrily building a nearly-billion dollar bridge where small change like LVL 80 million (USD 160 million) can't be accounted for, just like change that fell out of your pocket on the bus. Who wouldn't vote against all that?
But what next? As usual, Latvians are largely at a loss. The country made it into NATO and the European Union (EU), though perhaps it didn't deserve the latter, but then Brussels was convinced that once in the door, the post-communist shambolistans would get their acts together, which they didn't. So once those goals were reached, and we could send soldiers into purposeless battle against a near-Stone Age Muslim society, while the folks back home went batshit all the way to the bank, pushed the pedal to the floor as politicians told them to do, and contributed to the worst economic crisis the nation has faced since the 1930s Depression. Or worse, since Latvia claims to have  sailed rather well through that one, if you believe that an autarkic, authoritarian system was an effective remedy.
It is not like nothing is happening, to be sure. Former president Valdis Zatlers, who successfully dismissed the Saeima (once the popular vote was in), started his own party, the Reform Party or Zatlers's Reform Party, symbolized by a logo of a Red Cross (yes, the medical symbol and the one for the folks who show up after typhoons and earthquakes) with an arrow-thing sticking into it. Whatever that means.
Basically, the ZRP (Zerp?) as it is abbreviated is yet another clone of a we will do it better centrist reform, clean government and nice smart people party.  It sound a bit like New Era (Jaunais Laiks) or, for that matter, Vienotība, the chimera being patched together from Jaunais Laiks (the original reformers party founded by mildly(?) wacko Einārs Repše), the Citizens Union ( a kind of nationalists lite)  and the Societ for a Different Politics ( a kind of social democracy lite).
Well, good luck to them. So far, reforms have been nothing but false dawns, and the electorate seems to know and have expressed that truth.
The day after Zatlers founded his party at a place appropriately named "The Dream Factory" (Sapņu fabrika), it was back to normal in Latvian politics as a witch doctor (healer) calling herself Virsmāte or the Ubermother founded her own political party dedicated, also, to healing the country and bringing on better days for everyone. Just like Zatlers.  In fact, there are probably as many witch doctors in Latvia as there are bright, Western educated 30-somethings ready to step up and join the ex-president's team. So, with just about six weeks left until the extraordinary elections (a system dismissed by 95% of the population, according to Kaktiņš), the merry band of pranksters -- the ex Pres and his boys and girls, the badly battered Vienotība, the ever-faithful to the accused criminal Aivars Lembergs Green and Farmers' Union, and, of course, the witch doctors-- can set off on yet another race for the discredited halls of power in a failing state. As always, it will be sad fun to watch and very hard to cast a vote and still take oneself seriously.


Guntis said...

The biggest challenge for new political party members, who definitely will be elected, is how to remain honest. I think at this stage of our State its Main criteria. Till now, every political force has swapped patriotism to chairs & benefits (one of reasons is that they need pay back debts to sponsors, who paid for PR of course, but not only that). We have generally very big problem with patriotism…!!!

aizjūrniece said...

"/..../ the Reform Party or Zatlers's Reform Party, symbolized by a logo of a Red Cross (yes, the medical symbol and the one for the folks who show up after typhoons and earthquakes) with an arrow-thing sticking into it."

Good catch! But, at least to my eye the arrow is pointing at the party's name: Zatlera reformu partija. The intended message seems to be quite clear, if not entirely credible. http://www.ir.lv/2011/7/23/zatlera-partijas-logo-sarkans-krusts-uz-zila-fona

Juris Kaža said...

blogger.com set moderation as default or most blogs would be flooded with Viagra ads, loan offers, all kinds of shit. I don't censor.

Anonymous said...

This is that moment again when purely technically CHANGE is possible. What is impossible is to get anywhere near clarity in finding sensible answer to 20-years-old question HOW. It feels as at present, with level of incompetence and corruption (and quite often plain stupidity) overwhelmingly engulfing latvian political camp, at present it does not really matter what will be that populus-delivered new answer to another 20y.o. question WHO. HOW to get this country out of this pile of crap named tagatne. Recipe anyone?
Repeating after Juris here - false hope dawn. Again. Perhaps.

Aris Kruvevers

Maelstrom said...

You really need a vacation! I hope you can get a little break from Latvia. However, if you are looking for a country free of blinding stupidity from stem to stern, I would suggest you skip America. We are on the edge of a horrible precipice right now, and it looks like we are headed straight into the abyss.