Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Latvian presidential election: campaign notes

In 29 hours, the Latvian parliament will gather to vote on the next president of Latvia. There are two candidates: Valdis Zatlers and Aivars Endzins. The latest news from the election campaign:
  1. The mudslinging continues! Instead of having a substantive debate on the issues, both campaigns are trying to find ethics flaws with the other candidate. People's Party (which supports Zatlers) has re-published fragments from a book that Aivars Endzins wrote 30 years ago, during the Soviet period. In this book, Endzins denies that Soviet Union ever occupied Latvia by military force and claims that Latvia had joined Soviet Union voluntarily. And there is more of Soviet propaganda in his book.

    My opinion of Endzins just took a big, big hit. I know that joining Communist Party was a pre-requisite for many careers in Soviet Union (particularly, careers that invoved managing other people). But, there is a difference between

    (a) joining Communist Party and doing the minimum required amount (e.g., paying some amount in membership fees and attending meetings once in a while) and

    (b) actively producing propaganda nonsense on behalf of the Communist regime.

    I can fully understand the first but I have much less understanding for the second. If a person in Soviet Union wanted to pursue a career that did not involve writing propaganda books, there were certainly options for that!
  2. There might be yet another candidate! Egils Levits, a Latvian judge on the Court of Justice of European Communities, says that he has been informally contacted by politicians. It's possible that parties behind Zatlers and Endzins reach a deal on Levits as a compromise candidate before tomorrow's vote.
Tomorrow might be interesting. Stay tuned...

UPDATE (30/05/07): Endzins is trying to justify his past writings and comes off quite pathetically. The fellow historians are quite skeptical and say that one could work as an academic historian in Soviet Union without writing what Endzins wrote. Our current president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga also came down on Endzins quite hard, for both writing Soviet propoganda in 1970s and 1980s and for awarding bonuses to himself as the Chairman of the Constitutional Court. She was even harsher about the "Saskanas Centrs" (Harmony Centre) party which nominated Endzins:
About their funding, I, as a president, have certain confidential information that makes me worried about their loyalty to Latvia.
I read this as a hint that Harmony Centre is getting money from Russian government, through some secret channels. Vaira Vike-Freiberga did not endorse any of the candidates but she was much softer about Zatlers' supposed ethics lapses and characterized them as understandable.

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