The Latvian affiliate of the German-based market research and polling company GfK has published a poll indicating that the Harmony Center (Saskaņas centrs/SC) will get 41 seats in the extraordinary Saeima elections to be held in less than a week. In the last elections to the 10th Saeim,, GfK accurately predicted that SC would get 29 seats, which gives considerable credibility to their latest forecast.
The poll also sees the Green and Farmers Union (Zaļu un zemnieku savienība/ZZS) getting 13 seats down from 22, Unity (Vienotiba/V) would get 21 seats (down from 33), Zatlers' Reform Party (ZRP) would get 18 seats (as a new party, no prior presence), and the nationalist National Alliance (Visu Latvija-Tēvzeme un Brīviba-LNNK /NA) -seven seats.
The only combination that “works” from these forecast results is a coalition of SC and ZZS, easily getting 53 votes (or more, if support for the ZZS is stronger than anticipated). The resulting government will be populist – with the SC advocating more spending for pensions and social programs (even at the risk of expanding the budget deficit) and “corruption-tolerant” with the ZZS still holding out hopes that its backer and “eminence grise”, Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs, who face criminal charges for economic crimes, will someday be prime minister. Hence the idea that the government will be populruppted or corruplistic, combining the words populist and corrupted.
The SC and Lembergs have both entertained the idea of renegotiating Latvia's deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the vain hope of extending Latvia's very favorable credit terms (never mind that the IMF has not given any new loans at the same low rates) rather than re-financing the loans and going back to the market. Even if it worked, it would mean continued austerity, something at odds with the SC's attempts to be social-democratic.
The ZZS, a party ready to go in bed with almost anyone in order to stay in government, will continue to shield state-capture and corruption, though perhaps with less vigor since the SC will want to keep a relatively “clean” image. Indeed, one of the reasons people will probably vote for this party and forget the battles over “acknowledging the occupation” is that the SC has not, so far, been involved in any major corruption scandals (probably because it has been kept away from the trough by the bigger pigs).
Interestingly, Latvia will probably be praised for getting a government with its first ethnic Russian PM, Nils Ušakovs, a kind of Latvian version of Arnold Schwartzenegger – a politician of national scale who spoke the official language with a slight accent. There will also be well-grounded fears that an EU member state has been drawn further into Russia's sphere of influence, although the same could have been said about Germany and its pro-Russian policies some years back, for instance, regarding the Nordstream gas pipeline.
So, if the GfK poll and forecast are right, Latvia is heading for a change, putting the present government party in opposition, a different party and possibly an ethnic Russian prime minister in charge, and, after some years of slight progress in breaking away from corruption and free-spending, pedal-to-the metal government, a partial back-to-the future with populist spending and tolerance of, to put it mildly, politico-economic hanky-panky.