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Monday 25.03.2019 | Name days: Māra, Marita, Mārīte
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Harmony and UGF have their sponsors, whereas Sudraba’s party relies on donations

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUSince the beginning of the week, Latvia’s political parties have received more than half a million euros in donations and membership fees. According to the database of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, pockets fill up the fastest for political parties in power in the country and Riga.

Harmony has the most generous members. This year, however, the Union of Greens and Farmers has received the most generous donations, as concluded by De Facto programme of LTV.

Harmony’s sponsors are associated with Riga City Council, whereas UGF’s supporters are associated with its members and their subordinates, as reported by the programme.

«Membership fees helped Harmony become this year’s most generously supported political party, because the party received nearly EUR 90,000 in membership fees in Q1 2018 and nearly as much was paid in donations. Among the party’s largest sponsors are businessmen. However, the lion’s share came from existing or former Riga City Council deputies. The fact just how strong Harmony’s positions are in Riga is demonstrated by the list of members who pay membership fees. Several of Harmony’s youth-activists that have donated more than one thousand euros to the party work or undergo training in Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks,» as reported by De Facto.

The programme has compiled a list of the largest donators for Harmony: former Riga City Council deputy Nikolajs Zaharovs (EUR 19,000), Harmony board member Aivars Bergers (EUR 14,000) and former Riga City Council deputy and Riga International Car Park deputy council chairman Igors Ivanovs (EUR 4,990). Vadims Barannik, who is the head of Riga City Council’s Transport Committee, has also contributed much to Harmony (EUR 5,000). The same can be said for Jānis Urbanovičs (chairman of Harmony’s faction in the Saeima), who has donated EUR 2,000 to the party.

Urbanovičs about his party’s sponsors: «It would be surprising if people that have gained career perspectives through the party’s ranks one way or another ignored the party’s needs and refused to donate. […] It would be odd and humiliating to reach out to businessmen without pointing out that their own people do that.» When asked if what he said can be interpreted that people in Riga City Council’s structures were put there thanks to their contacts in the party, Urbanovičs said no. «No, the way it can be interpreted is that people enjoy trust, and because of that they are now in their posts. Their ties to the party were no obstacle for them to take those posts.»

UGF is not far behind Harmony revenue-wise. Among UGF’s sponsors are Saeima deputy Guntis Kalniņš (EUR 7,000), UGF chairman and Saeima deputy Armands Krauze (EUR 5,003), Liepaja Mayor Uldis Sesks (EUR 5,000), and UGF Saeima faction leader Augusts Brigmanis (EUR 3,000). Other supporters include Saeima deputy Andris Bērziņš (EUR 3,000) and Transport Minister Uldis Augulis (EUR 2,000), according to De Facto.

«If Harmony’s money largely comes from workers of Riga City Council’s structures, UGF’s funding comes from ministers, Saeima deputies, agriculture and finance ministry wage recipients, as well as members of Liepaja and other municipalities. Respectively – those are people whose future can be affected by UGF’s remainder in power. The presence of private sector representatives among donators remains relatively low,» De Facto reports.

One of UGF’s leaders, Saeima faction leader Augusts Brigmanis believes this is good: «Here’s the deal: every party member has a duty to turn to people and ask them to donate. Hard to say how people are doing with that. While there is no law for lobbying, it will remain hard to resolve this matter. Any businessman would be able to come up and ask something in return. And this is completely unacceptable, because we cannot put some people above others.»

Although Unity is third donation-wise, its treasury fills up more slowly than it did in the past. It has some major donators among businessmen. The party’s most generous members are paid wages in Brussels – European Parliament or European Commission. Unity’s most generous supporters include businessman and owner of SIA Uzvara-lauks Arnis Vējš (EUR 21,500), Economy Minister and Unity chairman Arvils Ašeradens (EUR 2,800), MEP Krišjānis Kariņš (EUR 2,500), Riga City Council deputy Vilnis Ķirsis (EUR 2,000).

Unity’s secretary general Artis Kampars is confident that this will not affect the party’s readiness to participate in elections, because Unity has formed an association with regional parties. The party will also get a new name: «Unity’s tradition is that we have a large number of members and they donate small amounts. The matter regarding donations is topical in the context of election campaign.»

The programme also emphasizes that For Latvia’s Development is only slightly behind Unity in terms of revenue. Although this party is not represented in the Saeima, it did gain nine seats in Riga City Council a year ago. The massive advertisement campaign may have played a role in this. The party’s most generous supporters are associated with Ventspils businessman Olafs Berķis.

For Latvia’s Development leader Juris Pūce denies the party is dependent on a narrow range of sponsors that dictate the party’s policy: «It is no surprise to learn that Olafs Berķis and his family members have donated money to support us. They have been publicly asked why they do that – they support our ideology, our positions and wish us the best, and donations is the way they do that. […] I cannot say if we have any major presence of any specific supporters. This just happened in the first quarter. But we still plan our resources – both income and expenses.»

The National Alliance is third behind Harmony and UGF rating-wise. As for donations, however, the party is far below the two. Among the party’s more well-known politicians is only Riga City Council member Baiba Broka, who has donated the only four-digit amount to the party this year – EUR 1,000.

Raivis Dzintars says party members will not have a duty to secure any specific donation amounts for this year’s elections: «No, I know there was a tradition for party members to pay some specific amount. This sounds akin to buying posts, and we are trying to get rid of this aspect. We will urge people to donate, because it is not advisable to remain undetected during elections. […] I believe the financial situation is not the only tool for elections. If you have a clear enough point to make and an idea who you work with, there is always a way to save funds.»

Recently formed parties do not receive many donations. This includes To Latvia from the Heart, which has suffered many failures recently – CPCB continues investigating possible violations in this party’s financing activities.


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