Sunday, May 13, 2007

More presidential candidates

Latvia First Party/Latvian Way coalition has nominated the deputy speaker of the Latvian parliament, Karina Petersone (born 1954) as its presidential candidate. Petersone has been in Latvian politics for 16 years but not in high-profile positions. She started in early 1990s as an aide to Anatolijs Gorbunovs, then-speaker of the parliament and then gradually moved into more significant roles, serving as the minister of culture from 1998 to 2002 and the deputy speaker of the parliament from 2006 to now. She has a reputation of a careful politician capable of compromises and political manuevring but hardly ever takes a leading role on important questions.

Her main negative is the lack of foreign policy experience. Latvian presidents usually have a significant foreign policy role and the outgoing president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga was very good at that. Petersone will have to learn foreign policy on the spot, if she is elected. She might be able to do that, but I would prefer someone who already has experience.

Social Democrats have nominated Dainis Ivans (born 1955), a prominent independence activist of late 1980s/early 1990s. Since Social Democrats have no seats in the current Latvian parliament, it is unlikely that Ivans will become the president. I interpret his nomination as Social Democrats trying to gain positive publicity by nominating a popular candidate.

Ivans started his political career as a journalist and enviromental activist, opposing the construction of more dams on Daugava river in late 1980s. This brought together enviromentalists who opposed the destruction of landscapes and nationalists who were opposed to the possible influx of a large number of ethnically Russian construction workers. The construction project was shelved and Ivans would go on to become the leader of Latvian Popular Front, the pro-Latvian independence political coalition.

He was outstanding as a protest figure but did not fare so well after Popular Front winning the election and become the ruling party. Protesting things and making positive contributions from a position of power requires different sets of skills and I suspect Ivans had skills for the first but not the second. I've also read multiple rumours of his personal life improprieties in Latvian tabloid press. Given those reasons, I would prefer not to see Ivans as the president.

On a second thought, his rhetorical skills may be good for promoting Latvian causes abroad. Still, I prefer almost any other candidate.

Still waiting for candidates from Union of Farmers and Greens and Fatherland and Freedom.

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