Friday, November 23, 2007

Different politics?

With Latvian politics in flux, it's virtually certain that new political parties will appear between now and the next parliamentary election.

This month, we saw the first one. It's lead by Aigars Štokenbergs and called "Society for different politics". I'm on the optimistic side about it, except that...

The promises of "new type of politics" are a bit worn out here, in Latvia. Over the last 10 years, we have seen New Party, New Era Party, New Democrats, New Centre Party (which even started with "Different politics" as its official name) ... "Different politics" now sounds like those laundry detergent ads in which they compare themselves to "regular detergent" and claim to produce much cleaner laundry. Repeated so many times by so many advertizers...

On to the substance... Aigars Štokenbergs is a Latvian millionaire businessmen who used to belong to People's Party and served as the minister of economy and regional development for one and a half years. He was on their shortlist for Latvian president this spring but the party nominated Maris Riekstins instead. Then, the relationship between Štokenbergs and the party deteriorated rapidly and he was formally expelled in October. He cited his opposition to business interests of Andris Šķēle as the reason. If that's indeed the case, I wonder how Štokenbergs managed to stay in People's Party for 8 years. Šķēle has been influential there forever.

His team includes another People's Party rebel (and another almost-presidential-candidate-from-People's Party), Artis Pabriks and several former top managers. Like Ivars Lacis (until recently, the rector of University of Latvia). They certainly have a substantial amount of managerial talent there (and, because of that, my doubts about New Era Party don't apply to them).

In terms of political ideas, they are hard to figure out. On his blog, Štokenbergs can start a sentence with asserting his right-of-center ideas and then talk about Scandinavian style welfare state as Latvia's future. How that fits together, I don't know. He either means some type of social market economy or is just trying to appeal to every possible constituency simultaneously (time-honored tradition of Latvian politics).

And he speaks of new tax on "speculative wealth". Hmm, how can a tax service distinguish between speculative and non-speculative wealth?

For now, I'm more positive about them than negative. But I can't resist making jokes about "different politics".