Act One of the balagāns seems to have ended. At square one, namely, the coalition that most people thought they were voting for – a center-right government consisting of Zatlers' Reform Party (ZRP), Unity (Vienotība/V) and the breath-taking (if you try to say the whole thing in one breath) All for Latvia/Fatherland & Freedom/Latvian National Independent Movement or simply the National Alliance (NA). It took just three weeks of acrimony, betrayal, reconciliation, adultery and the political equivalent of make-up sex to get back to where everyone started – at least everyone who could a) count the Saeima seats won after the September 17 election and b) compare and contrast the party programs of those elected to the Saeima.
Looking at things that way, one can say – good for you, Harmony Center (Saskaņas centrs/SC),you added two seats and became the single largest party in the Saeima! However, your program – at least up until the chameleon hopped up in front of a picture (symbolically speaking) of Valdis Zatlers and Valdis Dombrovskis and started to try to match its background – was completely mismatched with these guys. The ZRP and V are not populist social democrats. Nor is V “pro-Russian” in the same sense that SC appeals to its Russian electorate. Neither is it anti-Russian and much of what it says could appeal to middle-class ethnic Russian voters.
The same goes for the ZRP, which has proposed and may still get ethnic Russian economist Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis appointed to a ministerial position. He would be, technically speaking, at least the third ethnic Russian minister after Vladimirs Makarovs of the nationalist Fatherland & Freedom and Vasilijs Meļņiks (finance minister for five days in 1997). However, the ZRP has, for three weeks, clung to the idea of having the SC as a coalition partner almost like one of those attack dogs whose jaws, once they bite, cannot be opened without cutting off the beast's head. The news that the ZRP has agreed to what was obvious three weeks ago came the night of October 10, so there is still time for surprises before the new Saeima meets.
As for SC, their “exclusion” from government is not a “Russian vs Latvian” thing, at least not in rational terms. The ideology of SC and the other potential coalition partners didn't match. You cannot match shape-shifting “social democrats” who voted to protect an oligarch (Ainārs Šlesers) from the law with centrists, much less with nationalists. The ZRP was crazy trying to do so and persisting in its obsession for three weeks, discrediting (if that is at all possible) the Latvian political system even further.
The potentially loose cannon in the upcoming coalition is the NA, who know that they probably can test how far they roll around on the heaving decks of the coalition without any serious consequences. Unlikely that they will be dumped in favor of the SC, after all, but perhaps they should not tempt fate. On some points of logic, the NA does make sense. No one should accept the facile phrase that Latvia was occupied, but there are no occupiers. To say this, even in 2011, is like going back in time to 1965 (20 years after the war) in Germany and saying : “There was a Holocaust, but there isn't anyone around who shot or gassed Jews.” Of course there were such folks around, and they were found and put on trial.
The expression “there was an occupation, but there are no occupiers” is an illogical way of saying that most, perhaps the vast majority of non-Latvians who arrived during the occupation did not do so with the intent of actively enforcing the totalitarian regime. Clearly, those who were members of the security service (the KGB) and the military (the Soviet army wasn't just visiting Latvia for 50 years for vacation). Soviet army veterans have essentially been blanket pardoned for, technically, being “occupiers” under the treaty that ensured the removal of ex-Soviet Russian troops. There has not been a concerted effort to find and punish ex-KGB, a number have even become businessmen and politicians (such as social democrat Juris Bojārs).
What one really means by saying “there are no occupiers” is that one isn't going to make a big deal of it unless there is a clear case of someone being a “ripper of fingernails” (nagu maucējs in Latvian). Also, there is no point in going after second-generation “occupiers” or those who simply came along for the ride thinking that the “known world” for them was the Soviet Union. The country has already lost some 300 000 people of all ethnicities to emigration, and trying to get even more to leave simply because they are Russian is not going to help things, especially the economy.
Keeping the NA from going off the deep end on these issues is going to be a major concern for the new coalition (if it hasn't already fallen apart as I write this). The other concern is what Zatlers, who has proven himself somewhat of a whackbat (amalgam of wacko and batshit) may do if offended by the NA and tempted to seek solace with his “first love” the SC. Which is not to say that the center-right coalition that has apparently been stapled together couldn't get the support of the SC on some issues. That would almost be like normal European politics. Nice thought. But this is Latvia...