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Tuesday 21.11.2017 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte
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Diagnosis: each party has its own pre-election headache

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University of Latvia housed one of the last prime minister candidates public discussions in the eve of early elections of the 11th Saeima. Parties showed different attitude towards their most dynamic voters – students.

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThree official prime minister candidates took part in the meeting: Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity), Aivars Lembergs (Greens and Farmers Union) and Edmunds Sprudzs (Zatlers Reform Party). Political association All for Latvia!-TB/LNNK candidate Gaidis Berzins did not attend under the excuse that he had to take part in a debate in Venstpils – “the sacred territory” of Lembergs. Instead the party had sent an experienced politican Dzintars Rasnacs, ex-justice minister. While Harmony Center took everyone by surprise. Despite having two prime minister candidates – Janis Urbanovich and Nils Ushakov, they sent Sergey Dolgopolov, also an experienced politician but not quite the age of the audience.

Neither Slesers Reform Party, nor For Human Rights in United Latvia were invited under the pretext of low popularity ratings.

Dolgopolov scared people with yet another economic crisis and dismal demographic situation. According to him, the current government has information enough to drag down all the risks to a minimum. Other prime minister candidates (from parties not represented in the government, including Harmony Center) are deprived in this sense. So he believes they are unable to save the country. However, the Saeima member from Harmony Center believes that the government itself lacks clear vision on the necessary consolidation. Another topic Dolgopolov touched upon concerns the government’s responsibility to raise pensions. The issue of the elderly barely making the ends meet apparently did not catch the young people’s interest.

Dressed neatly as always, Lembergs opened the debate, saying that the most soaring issue of Latvia is attraction of external funds to boost production. What he probably meant was Economy Minister Artis Kampars (Unity), because, he believes, a man that is contra-advertising his own country simply cannot attract investments. “Those in power must go down on bended knees to please investors and convince them to place their money here. Moreover, we should not distinguish. Capital has neither nationality, nor age or race,” he said.

Dzintars Rasnacs needed only a minute to introduce to all possible threat Latvia is currently facing. He also pointed at what had already been singled out – economic instability and grim demographic situation. What followed really did make the audience perk up. Rasnacs set forth what he believes is the third problem – Russia’s geopolitical interest in the Baltic countries. The politician tried to intimidate students with the idea of Harmony Center being in the government, claiming that it would result in the eastern neighbour seeming even more frightful. He promised the party would not change its nationalist nature also if appointed into the government.

Edmunds Sprudzs in turn spoke about the mission and goals of the government. According to him, Zatlers Reform Party’s major priority is to restore the society’s trust in the Saeima and other politic bodies. He knows where this return path is, but it calls for reforms in the electoral system. Sprudzs based his speech on foundation solid enough – economic growth (especially fight against shadow economy), higher education reforms and decent demographic policy. Sprudzs deemed the educational system as catastrophic, but time to time contemplated over his own studies and school choir. The audience approved of this.

The current Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis once more assured he is ready to take the seat for the third time, then quickly shifting to his favourite topic – the economy. He talked about heaps of different numbers, GDP growth percent, too many Latvians leaving and the social budget. Dombrovskis does not see the main threat stands behind the back of the east, but rather in external economic factors. It is because Latvia happens to be an export-oriented country.

Compared to the rest of the candidates, the current Prime Minister seemed rather confident and unwavering. Neither was he embarrassed when asked whether he himself would hire a person he had just fired. It did not take Dombrovskis much time to spot the reference to the Saeima dissolution and his wish to be re-appointed. Still he said in the blink of an eye, “It is voters who decide everything.”


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