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Conversation with a politologist about voters in Latvia and stupid re-emigration plans

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUAmong the new political parties in Latvia, only the New Conservative Party has chances of entering the 13th Saeima. Ratings of the Union of Greens and Farmers were not affected by the published oligarch talks. Unity will have recovered prior to elections, raising its rating to 5%, as BNN was told by politologist and University of Latvia Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra.

Skudra notes that the main change when compared to the time before 12th Saeima elections, this time is «clear, unambiguous and with different interpretations». What he meant was Unity’s very low rating [4.9%, according to latest data], which Andris Piebalgs promised to pull up to 10% last year. «Because he failed to accomplish that, he has stepped down from the party’s leadership,» said Skudra.

When asked if Unity has any hope of recovering prior to elections, Skudra said that if recovery means reaching 5%, then yes. «Of course, you should never say never in politics. I assume they will refrain from making crude and foolish mistake. As long as they avoid doing that, they will overcome 5%.» The professor also says there were many voters during the last elections that said «I don’t know» and voted for Unity. 30% of respondents now say they don’t know who they will vote for.

Answering the question if new parties have any chance of entering the Saeima, Skudra is confident: «Only NCP. This is why Judins, Loskutovs, Čigāne and Dālderis have left the big five. Only Viņķele is left, and with Pavļuts at the helm it is hopeless to reach 5%.»

«Harmony will not turn against and call people to participate in mass protests against Education Law. The same cannot be said for Tatyana Zhdanok. Harmony will likely avoid touching Russia’s conflict with USA and Britain, much less the relations between Russia and NATO,» says the politologist.

He continues: «Latvian Russians’ list did speak out a bit about their schools, but someone silenced them. This is because nothing followed their complaints. It’s likely someone told them: ‘Quiet! What are you, dumb? This kind of thing should be done in September, not now.’ However, everyone will have forgotten about it all by then. School will start on 1 September – organize your protests then.»

Skudra says ‘it’s a question if so-called Russian influence agents in Latvia have enough reach to play around with the topic of Latvian-Russian relations.

Commenting on ratings of the National Alliance, the politologist says it will not be affected by any insolvency administrator scandals. «Their voters are loyal to the grave. There aren’t any problems there.»

Looking at the potential government composition, Skudra comments: «Looking at results of the latest survey it becomes clear that the government has two options – either with Harmony and UGF (with or without NA), or with Unity, UGF and Harmony.»

The professor adds: «Of course, the situation may yet change. If a serious conflict appears between the west and Russia in the Middle East, including some sporadic military clashes, and if this situation remains until autumn, Harmony’s chances of entering the government will be zero.»

Looking at the current government, Skudra said: «I would say there are no signs that would suggest the government may fall apart prior to elections. Right now the composition benefits UGF. For the government to collapse, they have to make some major mistakes, new problems would have to surface in the banking sector, the tax reform and state budget would have to have major problems for this to happen. It would be foolish for them to change anything, because current tendencies benefit them.»

He also says the published oligarch talks have not changed voters view of UGF, because their current ratings show that 13.9% of residents would vote for this party.

Commenting on results of municipal elections, the politologist says Harmony’s goal was winning in all of Latvia’s largest cities. «Everything suggested that aside from Riga and Rezekne they would come to power in Daugavpils – but they were overthrown there. Not without UGF’s influence, of course. As for Ventspils, they already have their man there – Aivars Lembergs.»

Speculation: protecting elections, USA ‘forced’ ABLV Bank to self-liquidate in February

Skudra: «One can only guess if Russia wanted all that to happen with ABLV Bank somewhere around September, not this long prior to election. My speculative assumption is that Americans forced ABLV Bank owners to self-liquidate sooner. They [Americans] made this step not because they knew nothing about it in the past, but because they wanted to make sure it happens long before elections and does not affect them. It is clear their intelligence services may have helped with this. It’s also no coincidence everything fell on Rimšēvičs.»

People have not trusted the government since the 90s

Baltic International Bank’s barometer, according to the latest results, dissatisfaction with the government in Latvia has increased. Professor Skudra admits he does not actually trust barometers, because he thinks the methodology is incorrect.

«Because the average voter in Latvia is not very well politically aware in domestic processes and foreign processes, he judges the government on instinct, based on opinions of family members and friends. Opinions are affected by socially-psychological aspects – there is very little connection with evaluation of political processes,» says Skudra.

«All the re-emigration plans – all of it is stupid! It is all economic and political foolishness!»

«This applies to people that have left the country. People will continue leaving the country. It will be less intense than it was during years of economic crisis. This process cannot be stopped, it will continue,» said Skudra.

The politologist mentioned as an example some Irish businessman who said in regards to economic growth in Latvia and increasing wages and was asked to return to the country: «No way – I will increase wages too, and people will stick with me.»

«This will repeat with everyone active on the labour market. Their wages will be increased to make sure they do not return to Latvia,» said the professor. He also rhetorically asked: «If people don’t trust parties, the government and the parliament, so why would they decide to return, especially considering the wage difference?»

The politologist explains: «Money transfers from other countries’ accounts to Hungary form 3.5% of the country’s GDP. 3.5%! The amount is not as impressive in Latvia, because we have fewer people who have left – around 250,000-300,000. It is still a considerable investment for Latvia’s economy and GDP. This is why re-emigration plans cannot possibly become a topic for pre-election fights.»


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