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Wednesday 19.06.2019 | Name days: Nils, Viktors
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Politicians’ election tricks: tailoring and hosting programmes

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe pre-election period will start in Latvia in two weeks from now. During this period, parties will have to compile all revenue and expenditures associated with 13th Saeima elections. But even before this period several parties have commenced their campaigns on radio, television, as well as in residents’ mailboxes.

LTV programme De Facto, has concluded that politicians try getting voters’ attention using different methods. This includes different regional visits reported by local media, as well as participating in different TV programmes as hosts or experts, as reported by De Facto.

Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs will be taking part in this year’s elections as the leader of candidate list the Union of Greens and Farmers in Latgale. Since the beginning of March he has been holding monthly visits to Latgale’s election region. He has met with farmers, has visited the future logistics centre and milk cooperative. He has also planted an oak tree there, and has even tried himself as a tailor. On 4 May, Dūklavs attended the festive service at Roman Catholic Church in Balva, De Facto reports.

The programme also reports that Dūklavs had experienced considerable results during his last week’s visit to Latgale. Daugavpils regional television Dautkom and its associated Grani.lv portal had dedicated at least four reports to the minister’s visit. Dūklavs travelled to Daugavpils again on 25 May – to participate in a discussion at the opening event of the resort season in Silene.

Dūklavs denies having coordinated his schedule to fit elections: «I travel to other places as well. I will soon visit Tērvete and Alūksne. I visit all places I get invited to by farmers. I participate in everything regardless of elections. As elections come closer, I have plans to visit Latgale as well.»

When asked if it has started yet, Dūklavs said: «Nothing has started yet. For me. Some media seem rather fixated on me. With that, I believe it has started for the media.»

Regional visits are a tradition for politicians during pre-election period. It is a less common practice for politicians to become TV and radio hosts, as well as regular participants. This is a long-term project for some. For example – the head of For Latvia’s Development party Juris Pūce has been a host for Radio SWH programme «Pūce skaita līdzi» for several years. The party’s board member Edgars Jaunups is a regular participant of Riga TV24 programme’s political discussion programme «Kur tas suns aprakts», as confirmed by De Facto.

Both parties are forming a union with «Kustība Par!» political party, whose board member Mārtiņš Staķis gained his initial recognition as the host of LTV religion and ethics programme «Saknes debesīs». Staķis appears there every now and there. This won’t continue for long, however. Once he is done filming the last two episodes, he will leave the programme. He explains: «I believe it would be fair towards the viewers and voters if I picked to stay either in politics or television. Although the two things can be combined, I believe it would be best for the programme if I made a decision with its interest in mind. […] Honestly, I am a little sad about all this. No one forced me to leave, but I had to make this decision nonetheless.»

Mayor of Valka and leader of Vidzeme party Vents Armands Krauklis, who is uncertain whether he should participate in Saeima as a member of Latvia’s Association of Regions elections or not, has no plans to cease being the chief conductor of Re:TV music programme «Vilciens Rīga-Valka». «I may be a good thing to do for a person who is unknown, but I’ve been publicly well-known for twenty years, since Bumerangs. It gives me no pros or cons – hosting a programme. But the law is there for us to follow. If I do become a candidate, I will no longer host the show,» promises Krauklis.

Unity Saeima faction leader and doctor Hosams Abu Meri shows up as a guest in a programme of LNT dedicated to medicine every Sunday. Abu Meri explains that less than 12 planned stories will be told in the end, because he decided to discontinue his participation after his party colleagues recommended this. He explains that neither he paid the programme nor the programme paid him for episodes.

One episode was made featuring some private clinic. Doctors were interviewed and the programme aired with a reference to teleshopping.

Abu Meri told De Facto that he was not aware of this: «I hadn’t noticed this. This is not good, not good in this case. […] I did not ask where they got the money for the programme, who their sponsor is and what they advertise. I just did my job – interviewed people for 5-6 minutes. That is all.»

The programme also notes that the head of the National Alliance Raivis Dzintars gained some free publicity at the end of last year. Rīgas Apriņķa Avīze, whose owners include the family of the now former secretary general of NA Aigars Lūšs, and one of the journalists of which incude Dzintars’ wife, released a paper in 85,000 copies free of charge. This particular newspaper included a central interview with Dzintars.

«Well, as far as I’m aware, I’ve seen no signals of self-promotion there. I know there are at least several copies planned. On my own, I am happy to have reached out to a large audience, reporting on my work and telling everyone about my values,» says Dzintars.

Jūlija Stepaņenko – a member of Honour to Serve Riga – has a weekly opportunity to reach out to a large number of residents. Every Monday she appears on Eiropas Hitu Radio and tells listeners about her work in the parliament. She claims that she pays nothing for the time on air. She did not provide a clear answer as to whose idea it was for her to appear on air: «I am a notable deputy, because I work actively and report my initiatives. With that, my activities catch people’s attention. Even you are promoting me with this interview.»

One of the radio station’s owners is member of Latvian Green Party and active contributor Ričards Zakss. Regular shows of the radio station had previously featured politicians associated with UGF: Guntis Belēvičs, Aivars Lembergs, and Uldis Augulis.

De Facto reminds that 9 June will mark the beginning of the pre-election period. During this time, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau will carefully study political parties’ expenditures and political promotion campaigns.


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