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Saturday 23.06.2018 | Name days: Līga
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The king is dead. Long live the king!

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This is what The Duke of Orleans uttered on the death day of King Louis XIV, when saluting to the next one – 5-year-old Louis XV. We can compare this to parliamentarism in Latvia. The 10th Saeima has finally gone down in history. Latvians elected a new one on Saturday, September 17.

We have finally arrived

However, its sustainability largely depends on who will make up the majority coalition, since none of the politic forces is in a position to form the government alone. One hundred parliamentarian seats have been distributed as follows:

= Harmony Center (HC) – 31;

= Zatlers Reform Party (ZRP) – 22;

= Unity – 20;

= National Association All for Latvia! (AL-TB/LNNK) – 14.

= Greens and Farmers Union (GFU) – 13.

The winner is now to make up the ruling coalition. And the winner is HC, but this is not the case, when the winner takes it all. To find out who won the elections after all, we must first define the losers. The first of them – Ainars Slesers. Just a month before the elections, he came up with an effective, but not so efficient, move by renaming LPP/LC to Slesers Reform Party. LETA estimates show that their pre-election campaign cost 282.5 thousand lats. The sum did not though help Slesers and his fellow party members open the door to the 11th Saeima. They did not even cross the 5% threshold.

The second most obvious loser is Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs with his politic resource under the name of Greens and Farmers Union. The party’s 22 seats in the last Saeima convocation have now dropped to 13. It is 40.9% less. It turns out that 275 thousand lats GFU spent on its pre-election campaign, according to the data of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB), did not make a change. 21.1 thousand lats per member of parliament is far from being an adequate sum for seats whose practical impact on politics can be nothing but just an illusion.

BNN analysts believe that the main reason for Slesers and Lembergs’ defeat is that their policies have overfed their own voters with what they believe is merit. Similarly, their attempts to conceal any direct involvement in the so-called “oligarch business” were rather clumsy.

The more Lembergs and Slesers pointed at their politic rivals, the more it was planted in the public mind that there is hardly ever smoke without fire. Apart from that, Latvians have always disapproved of self-praise.

It should be recognized that the fight initiated by Zatlers and supported by Unity found the most positive response among people. It is a fight against the state power being used in the interests of Lembergs, Slesers and finaly-to-leave-politics Andris Skele, leader of the dis-balanced People’s Party. This response then took the form of the votes for the true winners.

The first of them is the national association AL-TB/LNNK, which has increased its representation in the Saeima by 75%. The party spent 52 527 lats on its pre-election campaigning (CPCB data), namely, 3 750 lats per seat. The fact that they managed to make use of rhetoric to boost radical views of the society in their favour could also be regarded some kind of a victory for Latvian nationalists. According to the democratic European model, it is acceptable that the radical part takes up 7-9%, while AL-TB/LNNK gathered 14% of votes.

Unity is some kind of a winner as well despite reducing its representation in the Parliament by 39.4%. One can hardly recall a party that has lead the country out of the crisis and introduced a severe anti-social policy, at the same time still managing to keep in power twice in a year’s time.

Zatlers continues what has been started by Skele and Einars Repshe, the former “New Era” leader. A party established under the name of a respected authority and right in the eve of the elections is to succeed for sure. Despite ZRP’s establishment and its pre-election campaigning was characterized as rather sloppy by politic consultants and scientists, the goal has been achieved. Zatlers has gained the second biggest representation in the Saeima. The “golden share” to form the coalition is now in his hands indeed. But let’s elaborate on the matter.

Zatlers could be associated with Golem, the hero of Medieval European folklore, who was created entirely from inanimate matter, but came to possess magic powers later. Given birth to serve his master and only, he still managed to shake off slavery and kill his creator. The analogy is clearly there once you reminiscence Zatlers election an what later happened to those who had nominated him – People’s Party as well as Greens and Farmers Union. Zatlers was unwilling to settle with a servant’s status. He proved he had a soul.

It was either long-sighted politic calculation or lucky stars above Zatlers decision to found his own party instead of joining Unity. It was a successful move. Both of these twin parties gathered many votes, but at least Zatlers escaped reputation of mere Unity’s advertising object and now holds the true “golden share”.

HC, which is clearly oriented towards the Russian-speaking electorate, despite its leaders say the opposite, accomplished nearly mission impossible. Latvia showed them everything is possible in this country. Many believed that Ushakov-Urbanovich signed their own death sentence by supporting legislative amendments, which reinforce responsibility for misuse of Russian and allows eviction on tenants whose house owners have gone bankrupt. We can also add here the impossible-to-hide Lembergs and HC alliance’s support to Lembergs, Slesers and Skele’s groups lobbying mineral fertilizer construction in Riga Port. The project puts the capital city under deadly danger. However, reality turned out to be different. HC boosted its representation in the Parliament by two seats.

BNN analysts think that two important factors ensured HC victory. First, the so-called political left wing – HC and Russian-language media – put effort to push aside a convinced left-wing party “For Human Rights in United Latvian”. Given the country consisting of practically two communities, a Russian voter usually opts for supporting his own people. And it is the same with Latvians. What matters here is that the Russian-speaking community now has only ONE such party – Harmony Center. Second, unlike Slesers and Lembergs who dragged down their parties, Riga Mayor Nils Ushakov, nominated to take part in hostile pre-election debates, showed how exceedingly fast his charisma was gathering strength. Not only did this help him in concealing all HC mischief that voters should know, but also in giving at least slight virtual hope for something better.

Where we are going

President Andris Berzins gives winners ten days time for discussions before he starts consultations with parties elected in the parliament. To be able to clearly visualize what the next government coalition could look like, let’s consider the table, where “+” means increase in the number of seats, compared with the 10th Saeima, “-” – decrease, while “+” – without any changes.

Political forces

Latvia

Riga

Vidzeme

Latgale

Kurzeme

Zemgale

Harmony Center

31 (+ 2)

13 (+)

5 (+1)

8 (+)

2 (+)

3 (+1)

Zatlers Reform Party

22

5

7

2

4

4

Unity

20 (-13)

6 (-3)

7 (-5)

2 (+)

2 (-2)

2 (+1)

All for Latvia!-TB/LNNK

14 (+ 6)

4 (+2)

5 (+2)

1 (+)

2 (+1)

2 (+1)

Greens and Farmers Union

13 (- 9)

2 (-1)

3 (-3)

2 (-1)

3 (-2)

3 (-2)

The first thing that catches the eye is the fact that ZRP, practically with the same electorate as Unity and GFU, took away from them 13 and 9 mandates, respectively. Eventually, the party ensured 22 seats.

GFU, which lost everywhere and especially in Kurzeme, a region close to Lembergs, will most likely not take part in negotiations on the government coalition formation. Neither Zatlers, nor the current Prime Minister will abandon their standpoint, meaning one cannot been criticizing team work with oligarchs for three months, but then change the position entirely. Lembergs gets that. Otherwise he would not have pointed out to LNT that “two chaste nuns must make up the coalition – ZRP and HC.” President Berzins is unlikely to listen to the failed GFU prime minister candidate, who he himself had hoped for “politic marriage” with HC.

Besides, Lembergs keeps mixing up facts. Previously he said the people were forced to dismiss the 10th Saeima. Now he says, “If Dombrovskis keeps the position of the prime minister, people will be deceived, because they voted for the Saeima dismissal.” However, Lembergs himself voted “against” in the referendum, which asked only a single question “Are you for the 10th Saeima dismissal?” Is there a single word about Dombrovskis’ government?

Traditionally, president entrusts government formation to the leader of the winning party. Urbanovich had very timely entrusted this role to Ushakov, who practically complied with the right wing’s ultimatum right before the elections. In an official reception he recognized unofficially that the Soviet Union once really did occupy Latvia. This fully contradicts a book by Janis Urbanovich, head of HC faction, published in the eve of the elections. Documents described there show that there has never actually been any de jure occupation.

Following, these words AL-TB/LNNK leader Raivis Dzintars called the contradiction, “”beautiful words, and nothing more.” Having learnt the election results, Zatlers told Latvian Television no “red lines” with HC concern recognition of the occupation. This means the door for HC’s entrance into the Cabinet of Ministers is half-open from the perspective of optimists, but half-closed from a pessimist point of view.

Unity leader Solvita Aboltina sent Ushakov a stricter message. She singled out to Latvian Radio all the points they and HC differ. These “red lines” include Unity’s different view on the economic development and inability to accept HC’s proposed moratorium on historical and national issues. Apart from that, Unity is against HC prime minister. However, since ZRP does not have a real prime minister candidate either, HC will be forced to agree to Dombrovskis following into the steps of Skele and taking the prime minister post for the third time in a row.

Given that Ushakov has already started to change his mind on occupation matters, HC could agree with Unity on this unless a professional satisfying both the parties is invited.

One shall not forget that such non-elected but prominent members of Unity as the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristovskis, Culture Minister Elerte and Justice Minister Stokenbergs will not be excited about the prospect of a Russian party taking the lead in the next government.

Eventually, President Berzins will entrust the government not to a party with the most seats in the parliament, but to those who can present at least 51 deputies to vote for such a government. HC + ZRP + Unity have 73 mandates in total. It is a number high enough to ensure smooth adoption of bills.

However, there are two possibilities. First, ZRP and Unity sets forth conditions HC cannot comply with, because HC and ZRP cannot make up the coalition alone. Second, the history repeats itself – the democratic party “Saimnieks” once as if formed a coalition, which was not supported by the Saeima. Why couldn’t ZRP and Unity pull this trick with HC? This would deem the party as losers forever.

There is yet another option. ZRP + Unity + AL-TB/LNNK have 56 mandates in total. Latvian 20-year-long history shows that an even smaller number of mandates has formed quite a sustainable government. In our case being in talks with HC is one thing, while actually working in their government is something entirely different. It is something one could hardly imagine. This is where Zatlers “golden share” will have the final say.

A very difficult choice expects President Berzins. Is it going to be coalition of HC + ZRP + Unity or ZRP + Unity + AL-TB/LNNK? If the president refuses the first option, it might be misunderstood by the “old” European democracies. If he refuses the second version, the titular nation might condemn the move. However, practice shows that when Latvia is doing something wrong, it is only threatened with a finger – as accepted in democratic countries. The Latvian political elite has already learnt not to notice such mild threats. But when the president is not pleasing the elite, problems pile on him like a snowball.

Therefore, BNN concludes that HC chances of leading the government are quite illusory. Moreover, their part in the coalition could come with abandonment of their position on many matters in favour of right wing parties. Considering all this, the majority will most likely be made up by 56 deputies, instead of 73.


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