Sunday, March 16, 2008

Latvian political realignment, an update

By next election, the Latvian political scene will probably look very different from what it was in 2006. The situation is still very fluid. We have several new parties forming (at least 2, possibly even 4) and it's not clear which of them will succeed and which will fail.

The two confirmed new parties are:
- The "Democratic Patriotic Union" consisting of Sandra Kalniete's group that left New Era Party on January 31 and Girts Kristovskis group that left Fatherland and Freedom about a week later. The party claims to be right-of-center and patriotic but not nationalist. (The exact semantic of "patriotic but not nationalist" keeps escaping me. I think it's just an attempt of gaining nationalist-minded voters without alienating ethnic Russians.) The party also continues New Era's anti-corruption and clean government rhetoric. (As this opinion poll shows, they might effectively destroy New Era Party by taking over its voters.) Personality-wise, the party is heavy on creative intelligentsia and Latvian Popular Front/Latvian Way politicians of early 1990s.
- The "Society for Different Politics" of People's Party defectors Aigars Stokenbergs and Artis Pabriks. Although defecting from right-of-center party, they've quickly moved to left and now support a referendum on major increase in old-age pensions. Shades of the recent Hungarian referendum. Stokenbergs also supports other increases in social spending and higher taxes on rich. Sometimes he sounds unabashedly leftist but then he says that he is "not left-of-center, just left of other Latvian parties". (Again, the usual Latvian strategy of trying to appeal to all constituencies simultaneously.) Behind the leaders, there is a collection of former high-level managers from both public and private sectors, which suggests that the party might be quite pragmatic if it gets to power.

Two new parties that may or may not materialize:
- "Christian Social Union", lead by PR specialist Kristians Rozenvalds (I've heard the name more than once, but I've forgotten in what context) and supported by the leadership of Latvian Catholic Church. They haven't yet decided about forming the party but they already have a blog for it (in Latvian).
- An unnamed group lead by Guntis Ulmanis who was Latvia's president from 1993 to 1999. During his presidency, Ulmanis was more an object of jokes than respect. That was, however, a while ago and he is now viewed more like a respected retired politician. And he claims to be leading a group of mostly young academics and small-business people. They don't know if they want to be a party but they are trying to work out a 20-30 year plan for Latvia's future.

And a group of people who are concerned about "excessive social liberalism and its destructive influence" intend to establish an Institute for Support of Conservative Ideas. The institute is supported by prominent People's Party's members and is supposed to counter the influence of liberal Soros-funded thinktanks and activist groups. It's a change for People's Party. Until now, they looked like an amorphous group promising everything to everyone (and, according to their critics, serving interests of a group of agrobusiness people behind the scenes). Now, they are suddenly interested in developing an ideology.

I don't know how this all will end but we are certainly witnessing an early stage of a major political realigment.

1 comment:

Eustace said...

This will not have effect as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.
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