Sunday, September 11, 2011

Latvia Heading for a populruppted or corruplistic government?

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.


Anonymous said...

Good résumé of the worst possible outcome of the upcoming elections. It is clear that ex-president Zatlers took a risk when he pulled the rug under the Latvian Parliament, but hopefully the outcome will not be so bad as the recent polls indicated and one thing is for sure: Slesers and Skele have been temporary maneuvered out from politics. Such progress is worth taking risks for. The Baltic Veteran

Uldis said...

I will vote for SC. Since they are ruling in Riga, the periphery is much better. Suddenly, we have renew equipment in parks, new sidewalks and there is police patrolling, before all the public money was spent in the downtown. But above all, SC is clean of corruption and responsibility for the disaster of country we have.

20 years should be enough to fix the country in a better situation than was with Soviet Union... So at this point I don't care if the PM is latvian or russian-latvian citizen. By the way, I think that Nils Ušakovs It seems more like a mayor of LA and not like Sweatzenager. More than 30% of our population are slavs, so we can compare them with the spanish minority in USA.

And if they (SC) finally get their hands dirty as well, we will keep on migrating... because our patriotism (a polite way to say nationalism) it's empty, we don't care about our nation, we care about going against russians, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Interesting but highly unlikely. The maximum Saskanas Centrs can grab is in my mind 30-32 out of 100 seats. The Russian speaking electorate is not larger than 20-22% of all voters. I can't see them attract more than 10% of the Latvian electorate. That would give them a maximum of 32% of the vote, but that will not happen. All Russians are not voting for them. I guess 24% of the votes and 30 seats. Good but not phantasmic. Mst likely the next government will be Vienotiba, Zatlers party and the National block with a total of some 55-60 seats.

Juris Kaža said...

Uldis sounds like a Latvian voter ready to vote for SC simply because they have not fucked up on a national level. How fiscally-financial sound their spending in Riga is remains to be seen, but a lot of Riga Latvias may well vote for nice-guy Ušakovs, who has fixed up the city and not get all upset about Russians vs Latvians etc.

Anonymous said...

Riga still has plenty of problems. Look at the unfinished southern bridge, the yearly hysteria about the Legionairres, reduced public transportation, unacceptable levels of noise in Old Riga late at night (the Dstyle bar being a perpetual offender), among other troubles. So just because a few parks have been cleaned up doesn't mean that Ušakovs is ready to be prime minister.

Kārlis Streips said...

Ušakovs has run Rīga on the basis of populist approaches to pensioners. For instance, allowing all pensioners, irrespective of their financial status, to ride on public transportation for free, never mind that this has caused substantial losses for the public transportation system. But at the national level, Harmony Center is buddy-buddy with the party of the dictator of Russia and with the party of the dictators of China. Despite what its campaign platform says, many of its members, including Ušakovs, are in favor of grating official status to the Russian language, thus making Russian an official language of the European Union, as well -- something which is clearly the goal of Harmony Center's pals at the Kremlin. Voting for Harmony Center because a playground was installed in a neighborhood of Riga is the same as voting for Lembergs because his town is nice and never mind that he's on trial for massive crimes and never mind that Ventspils is nice because of oil money and would have been nice even if Mickey Mouse had been mayor.

Uldis said...

I like this kind of mentality: “populist”, which normally means those kinds of measures who benefit the poor people, they are always bad, very bad for the future of the country (by the way those pensioners who are not poor, don’t worry, they’re not gonna use the public transport).

Rīga is a mess, I know I know. But, hello? Before SC the periphery was invisible in public policies (those we live out of the center we know perfectly. Ok I’m worry about where they got the money… for now I just want to think that they redistribute budget to use a little bit in the periphery as well). The small things are important in the life of the people, the signs that the politicians care about the citizens it’s the minimum we could ask, so I prefer some “populism” than slaves of the “political correct choice”… which normally means be in favor of the rich. That why measures like our great flat tax of 25% for the salary incomes and 15% for corporation are just smart, they’re not “populist”, of course because they’re going against the majority of the population, but this is pretty cool.

We make big noise saying that we’re Northern Europe and it’s just a big lie. I would like to have a normal western country, like our neighbors, those who are in the north and make things that we don’t apply. We prefer policies of the poorest countries in the world… or better, we love following most of the Russians policies in economics and social spending… (similarities scare me) Hey but it doesn’t matter! For economy I guess Russia is cool because they don't do populism and they love helping rich people.

And what? I know that SC is not gonna change this mess. I trust a little bit in Ušakovs, as I do in Dombrovskis. I wanna think that a new generation of politicians could change our country, but, the problem are Vienotība and SC. Which is the difference? The first have been in the power and I know that they still think that we have to be a commerce hub, nothing else. Their politics are just the same that we had last 20 years. Most of their politics are against the wishes of their voters… but we don’t change our vote because of this fear to the Russians…oooohhh Russians are coming with Putin and so on… What the hell, do you really think that they are gonna make Russian official language? Fear, fear, fear. This time I will vote for SC. Probably they’re gonna make just the same the others made, but unless till today they don't have responsibilities of this mess and I’m really fed up with this appellation to the fear vote… Don’t vote Russians… and keep voting those measures that you don’t like, you know, this wonderful policies that brought us to this point.

Anonymous said...

Best and brightest sure have emigrated :D :D

Mārcis said...

Fox News YouTube channel has set up this thing - ask your question to the republican candidates and I wanted to see what are some questions people are asking from Europe and there was this question from Greece from a guy with a Greek sounding name: will you be helping European countries that are in debt crisis?

LMAO! I sure hope that guy was trolling!

But I can imagine someone legitimately asking such a question. People are really unable to see past the tip of their nose, so to speak. I guess it's inevitable dimmer people will be casting their vote because you see there was a children's playground installed or you see Ventspils has pretty pavements.

I was proud how well this country managed Vienotība-led austerity measures, tax increases (it's impossible to escape VAT) were not so nice but you gotta do what you gotta do I guess, some people don't understand the state that the world economy is in. There is only so much you can stretch that bikšgumija. In other words - you cannot stretch it anymore. If someone promises you debessmanna you can be sure as hell that someone will have to pay for that if not you then your children (if there will be any)

Anonymous said...

Well said, Juri.
What if GfK's right? Does it mean finally there's light at the end of the shi.. tunnel? That'd be long-awaited and much welcomed first step to spread positive Riga exeprience of late further away into regions. God help! And you can call them corruplistic, or populruppted, or not-so-enthno-historico-idealistic as far as electing them reduces scale of public funds pilferage and uncontrollable descend further into stateless chaos. Somehow I'm also sure getting SC into higher power eschelon will not be followed by invitation card from Saiema to 76th Pskov Airbourne
Assault division to pay LV another 50-years long visit. As for Dievs Sveti.. sure case it'll not going to get offical russian chorus too. Think positive!
May I also?...
Bravo Uldi! Butt-clenching truth about the way many compatriots see and judge prospects of getting LV out of this economic and moral shithole. Total absence of common sense will drive many of them again to vote based on traditionalism of mental misery and out of fear of inevitable changes. Give SC a chance. And yes, thumbs up and I'm with you on this - greater Riga DID change to good through last 24 months more then during any other period within last 20 years!At least my 73y.o. mum says so.
Off to start packing my suitcase now and booking Airbaltic ticket one-way from Gatwick. Whoops! Air-B just went into administartion :-) Reluctantly remaining in my Essex castle.
Yours remotely
Aris Kruvevers

Wow, Mr Anonymous! Well spotted about musu roadsigns in NE England. And content's quite appropriate to match national charm of newly immigrated crowd. Yes, they're not einsteins en masses. More like honest hardworking labourers who get breathalyzed while driving their R-reg Vauxhauls and Rovers after having downed a couple of vodkas at friend's dinner. And indeed penalties for drink&drive offences in LV are way steeper then in UK. Did I mention it? You can be "legal" after a pint here. So with my 6'3 and 16+ stones of pure health staying legal doesn't mean to reamain tea-totaller during every round in my favourite public house. Figure it out about conversions and idioms yourself.