Sunday, July 30, 2006

July opinion poll

From "Latvijas fakti". The headline: The popularity of all [major] parties slightly down. The numbers (and the change compared to June opinion poll):

Jaunais laiks 10.8% (-0.9%)
PCTVL 10.4% (-0.2%)
ZZS 9.8% (-0.9%)
Tautas Partija 9% (-1.1%)
TB/LNNK 8% (-0.2%)
Saskanas Centrs 5.3% (-0.5%)
LC/LPP 5.1% (-0.4%)

This translates to the following numbers of seats in parliament:
Jaunais laiks 19 (unchanged)
PCTVL 18 (+1)
ZZS 17 (unchanged)
Tautas Partija 15 (-1)
TB/LNNK 14 (+1)
Saskanas Centrs 9 (unchanged)
LC/LPP 8 (-1)

Almost nothing has changed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Why do the journalists like the negative headlines so much?

Today's headline from Delfi:

Last year, the number of suicides in Latvia exceeded the number of deaths in traffic accidents

Scary, isn't it? I looked up the actual report by Central Statistics Office. Compared to five years ago, the number of suicides in Latvia has declined by 27% and the number of deaths in traffic accidents has declined by 30%.

Why do the journalists like the negative headlines so much?

UPDATE: I posted this and realized that both of my previous posts were about corruption. Well, maybe this weblogger also favors negative topics.


Yesterday, I saw two news stories on Aivars Lembergs, the mayor of Ventspils:

Politics section: Union of Farmers and Greens nominates Lembergs as their candidate for Prime Minister
Crime section: Prosecutor's office charges Aivars Lembergs with bribery and money laundering

Lembergs has been banned from leaving Latvia without prosecutor's permission and may have to pay a bail of 1 million lats (1.4 million euros). It's a huge bail but Lembergs' personal wealth is in tens of millions of lats.

The timing of events is quite interesting. Most of the charges are about events that took place from 1993 to 1995. Prosecutors were not in a hurry to charge Lembergs while he was a mayor of a mid-size town. But, with Lembergs having political ambitions on a national level and election coming up in 2.5 months, things changed and old allegations are now prosecuted vigorously.

Lembergs is dismissing the charges as politically motivated. Well, the charges may not be politically motivated but the decision to bring them up now (after not trying to charge him in previous 10 years) probably is.

"Everyone investigating everyone on corruption charges" remains the main theme for October 2006 elections.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New Era?

Jaunais Laiks (New Era Party) emerged in 2002, on a promise of fighting corruption. After 2002 election, New Era Party leader Einars Repse became the prime minister of Latvia. His coalition government only lasted for slightly more than a year but the New Era Party now leads municipal governments in several cities, including Riga.

This week, I saw two news stories on what the New Era Party has become:

The first story reveals interesting coincidences between decisions by national and city governments and large donations to the New Era Party. One example. "Ionica" company signs a 70,000 lat (100,000 euro) contract with city of Riga (whose mayor, Aigars Aksenoks belongs to the New Era Party) for creating an open-air skating rink. On the same day, the owner of the company donates 9,960 lats to the New Era Party. The article from "Diena" newspaper reveals several other stories similar to this one.

The second story involves the city government of Jurmala, a sea-side resort town. The city is lead by mayor Inese Aizstrauta who used to belong to New Era Party, until she was expelled from it a few days ago. The conflict between her and the party was over the city development plan which determines which parts of the city are open to new construction. Many parts of Jurmala are fairly prestigious places to live. Free land is scarce and a lot of it is protected for enviromental reasons. As a result, permits to build new buildings can be very valuable.

According to Aizstrauta, she was pressured by Dans Titavs (an influential New Era member who used to be one of two aides to New Era's prime minister Repse) to allow several construction projects to go ahead. Aizstrauta-lead city council voted for the development plan without Titavs-supported projects. In a few days, New Era party declared that the development plan was corrupt and expelled Aizstrauta, together with two other New Era city council members, from the party.

Meet the New Era. Same as Old Era?

Aizstrauta says that she joined the party hoping to change Latvia for better. But later, she discovered that there is "another New Era" of people who abuse popular trust in selfish interests. Besides Titavs, she named party's secretary-general Edgars Jaunups as one of those people.

For myself, I will be even more skeptical of political parties that promise an end to "politics as usual".

Sunday, July 02, 2006

June opinion poll

According to Latvijas Fakti:

Jaunais laiks 11.7% (+1%)
ZZS 10.7% (+0.2%)
PCTVL 10.6% (+0.9%)
TP 10.1% (-0.2%)
TB/LNNK 8.2% (+0.3%)
Saskanas centrs 5.8% (+0.7%)
LC/LPP 5.5% (+1.7%)
Social Democrats 3.5% (+0.1%)

This translates to the following number of seats in the parliament:
Jaunais laiks 19
ZZS 17
TP 16
Saskanas Centrs 9

Social Democrats are slightly short of 5% threshold. (Since the poll includes people who are undecided or will skip the election, 3.5% actually means 4.9% of those who have decided to vote for one of parties.)

Last month's poll is here.