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Tuesday 23.01.2018 | Name days: Strauta, Grieta
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EP elections: who will get to go to Brussels?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU14 political parties and a total of 170 candidates from Latvia compete for 8 seats in the European Parliament.

Results of all social surveys can be summarized in overall low voter activity: experts predict less than 40% of voters will participate in elections. This kind of situation is typical for EP elections.

At the same time, experts admit it is impossible to predict the outcome of elections, given how low activity is going to be. However, it is possible to divide up political parties into several groups.

Can’t go wrong with classic

Unity is the only ruling party in Latvia that is said to be able to gain more than one seat in the European Parliament. Four current MEPs from this party are to take part in EP elections: Sandra Kalniete, Inese Vaidere, Karlis Sadurskis and Arturs Krisjanis Karins.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Seima deputy and former Prime Minister of Latvia, is the first on the list.

It is election programme, Unity lists multiple practical goals: increase of Europe’s competitiveness, close cooperation in interior and legal affairs. There is also a mentioning of science and innovations. Unity promises a socially-responsible policy and participation in new EU initiatives, rational use of EU mechanisms to reduce youth unemployment and encourage Latvian residents to re-emigrate back to Latvia.

Russian group

This group is more than conditional: all four parties are oriented at Russian-speaking voters and have put emphasis on resolving social problems. This will likely attract attention of less-socially protected Latvians. The biggest intrigue – common audience and equal chances of entering the European Parliament – will be played in this group.

-Social-democratic party ‘Harmony’ – the strongest player. Candidates include: Boris Cilevic, Andrei Klementyev, journalist Andrei Mamikin and Elizaveta Krivcova. This party puts an emphasis on social sphere, defending human rights and democratic principles. Key aspects are linked to refusal of strict economy and renewal of public investments.

-‘Alternative’ party with Aleksandr Mirsky leading the list of candidates. In spite of his status as the party’s leader, supervisors see him as a ‘dark horse’. This means he may be able to keep his seat. The party’s programme, however, is openly made fun of by everyone: confused populism people say. For example ‘[…] Corruption is Latvia’s tragedy’ or ‘[…] Women are a country’s most valuable treasure.’

The chances of the Latvian Socialist Party and its leader Alfreds Rubiks are still believed to be high, according to experts. His political capital was formed at the beginning of the ‘90s thanks to his principality and his commitment to socialist ideas. The party’s programme is somewhat illogical: on one hand, the European Union is praised. On the other hand, the EU is blamed.

Latvian Russians Union is led by the current MEP Tatyana Zhdanok. The programme mentions the leader’s previous accomplishments. The programme itself is oriented at defending interests of Russian-speakers and improving relations with Russia.

Nationals

The National Alliance remains true to its national rhetoric: ‘[…] defend the Latvian people and loyal citizens of Latvia and help the Latvian nation rise.’

The party’s candidates include: MEP Roberts Zile, Justice Minister Baiba Broka and Culture Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Rihards Kols.

The party’s programme calls not to support the introduction of a visa-free regime between the EU and Russia and limit the practice of issuing residence permits in the Schengen Zone, as well as make sure the current order of division of EU funds is reviewed in a way to comply with Latvia’s interests.

Parties of optimistic patriots

In her blog on politika.lv, politologist Iveta Kazoka mentioned the clearest factor that unites programmes of four candidate lists: the ‘let’s all passionately fight for Latvia’s interests in the European Union’ thesis. Candidates are trying to convince voters that they will convince the European Parliament to work in Latvia’s interests, not the union as a whole.

Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party. The leader of their list – Janis Dinevics – remains in the shadow. He was a very active politician once: one of the leaders of the Latvian Peoples’ Front, deputy of the Supreme Council of Latvia, minister and deputy Chairman of the Latvian Ministers Council. The party promises strict financial discipline, but with one additional point – austerity measures are not to have a negative impact on the economy. They also promise to bring banks that are responsible for the crisis to justice.

For Latvia’s Development. The list of this party is headed by former Director of Latvia’s National Opera Andrejs Zhagars, former MEP Rihards Piks and one of the leader of New Era party Dan Titavs. Unlike other parties, this one of more right wing oriented in terms of economic ideology: promises to care for entrepreneurs, remove unnecessary regulations, stimulate Latvia’s export, etc.

Union of Greens and Farmers. Candidates include Saeima deputy Andris Berzins, Latvian ambassador to Egypt Iveta Shulca and Saeima deputy Iveta Grigule. Their programme promises increased direct payments from EU funds and additional funds for entrepreneurs, but only after 2020. Furthermore, the programme includes matters of EU scale: strict regulation over the financial market and the strengthening of the family business model.

Latvian Regional Alliance. Candidate list is headed by Martins Bondars, former head of Vaira Vike-Freiberga’s Chancellery and entrepreneur. The party’s programme puts an emphasis on defending the interests of Latvian regions. They also blame European bureaucrats for all the bad things that happen.

Skeletons in closets

One week prior to elections, Pietiek.lv published a journalist investigation that allows for the assumption that Valdis Dombrovskis left the post of Latvian Prime Minister not because of the tragedy in Zolitide, but because he wanted to avoid an enormous scandal regarding a very suspicious situation surrounding loans taken by his wife. It is mentioned that these loans were services on much more beneficial terms than usual.

Roberts Zile is reminded in this investigation that he had appointed his business partner – Gatis Deksnis – to a post in the Board of Riga Freeport in 2002. The two also shared a business together – a small hydro-electric dam on Gauja River. When he was in different political posts in the beginning of 2000’s, Zile remained a co-owner of a company that worked with small hydro-electric dams. Combination of such posts has signs of a conflict of interests.

One episode of Andrei Mamikin’s TV programee once featured an interactive question for viewers regarding the independence of Latvia. One of the possible answers was ‘a fatal mistake?’. The television channel where this programme was broadcasted was fined LVL 1,000 by the National Mass Media Council for humiliation of national honour and dignity. This decision was challenged in court. The process was abruptly ended because the plaintiff soon ceased to exist.

Ivet Grigule is accused of hiding sources of funding of election campaigns, including this year’s EP election campaign. In addition to that, journalists also published complaints from residents that they have received post cards with personal congratulations from Grigule. The MEP candidate never stated how she acquired personal information about these residents.

Tatyana Zhdanok is often suspected of receiving funding for her activities from Russia.

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