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Wednesday 20.02.2019 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris

Former Saeima deputy: Lembergs - not a player in elections

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Klavs Olsteins

Residents expect from the political parties ability to act, which is sometimes lost in political arguments and fight for posts. People are sick and tired of these fights within and among parties, Klavs Olsteins, the former Saeima member, who quit the political association Unity (Vienotība) to join Zatlers Reform Party, told the business news portal BNN. Moreover, he forecasts Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs will be no player at all in these elections.

What outcome do you forecast for the leading political parties. Which ones will cross the 5% threshold?

It will definitely be Harmony Center (Saskaņas centrs), Unity, Zatlers Reform Party, All for Latvia/For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (Visu Latvijai/TB/LNNK) and Greens and Farmers Union (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība). These parties are already in politics but the Reform Party will join them. Sociology data show the new political force is to take away the most of votes from the Greens and Farmers.

The idea is that the next government needs to be free from oligarchs and people in both politics and business at the same time. This is one of the key challenges of the next elections.

However, parties need to come up with progressive ideas as well. Latvian economic development lags behind Estonians and Lithuanians, so we need to think of ways how to change this with the help of possible tax cuts to create friendlier environment for the economy and business. Unemployment issues should be tackled as well and Latvian goods should be sold in both the eastern and western European markets.

Export should account for the basis of economic growth, so we need to think of ways to operate on export markets and be competitive. Similalry, our higher education establishments should be among the top 10 in Europe or top 50 in the world.

Which parties will be in the most severe fight?

Unity, Zatlers Reform Party and All for Latvia/TB/LNNNK could make up the majority in the Saeima. It means these parties could form the government as well. Such a political standpoint is the right one. The question whether to attract also the Harmony Center is topical but only with the principles named by Zatlers – they recognize Latvia occupation fact and Latvian as the only official language.

Zatlers Reform Party is for a people-elected president. Do you believe people of today are knowledgeable enough to take part in such an important t process as presidential elections?

I was once skeptical about that as well. But the recent presidential elections proved if Aivars Lembergs would have wanted to become a president, he would have done that regardless what the people think of him. Moreover, Lithuania with its semi-presidential system and other countries’ practice shows this argument is not that crucial. I believe people are clever enough to choose the best president for the country. Lithuanian Grybaskaite proves that.

Why is Latvia dropping behind other Baltic states in economic development?

The crisis hit the most severe exactly in Latvia due to Parex Bank breakdown and the fact it was mostly the domestic market that boosted the economy before the crisis. The economy was based on consumption. Today, the economy has found another profile and we break export records every month. Historically, this now marks a major turning point, as the domestic consumption has been changed to external one.

Do you blame politicians for the downfall?

Only those who do nothing – do not make any mistakes, but politicians need to act in order to take fast, clear and viable decisions. This is the greatest issue of today’s politics, because the ability to act is lost somewhere in bargaining over posts.

To give an example, we knew about airBaltic financial problems already two years ago. And the Transport Minister Uldis Augulis has been witnessing these problems for a year now. We need this national company airBaltic in order to be in a more privileged position that Estonians and Lithuanians. However, we cannot allow these problems being stalled for such a long period of time. Brand stolen from airBaltic, if I can say so, still has not been recovered. The company now has only its name, while all the money has been transferred to subsidiaries. It is a huge problem that the state as the major shareholder in the airline is not able to replace such a manager as Bertolt Flick. Practically, criminal action should be brought against him.

Are there any other soaring points of the Latvian economy?

It is Ventspils Nafta (Ventspils Oil) with an oil flow from Russia but taxes being paid here. There is little left now from the once flourishing company of great importance to the economy and it is all thanks to a single man. This is again mixing ambitions, politics and business.

There is also Latvian Shipping Company (Latvijas Kuģniecība), once a profitable company with thousands of employees. After an agreement between oligarchs – Andris Skele and Aivars Lembergs – it as privatised and emptied. The company has just recently started to recover in the hands of other shareholders.

Can Ventpils Mayor Aivars Lembergs recent statements about Zatlers change voters’ choice?

Lemergs is already acting as a loser, as he has started to humiliate women, for example, the TV host Baiba Sipeniece – Gavare. Such behaviour is not worthy of a man and it looks like he is not going to to play any role in these elections. I believe Zatlers is the only one who can show Lembergs his place.

Have voters’ expectations changed after the so-called oligarchs case and Zatlers call for the Saeima dismissal?

For sure, because over 700 people have expressed their support for Zatlers Reform Party in a couple of days time. This is the start of a never-before-seen social movement.

Why do businessmen and the society distrust political parties as such?

This distrust was also one of the reasons why Zatlers wanted to dismiss the Saeima. On the one hand, there were 60% new faces in it, on the other hand, an extremely low proportion of the society supported it. Constant fights were also one of the reasons for this. People are sick and tired of these fights within and among parties. Also Unity was bargaining over posts within itself, moreover, also people saw it, despite they care neither for posts nor positions but jobs, the economy being on the right path and Latvia ranking among the top 5 European countries, instead of rounding the list up as it is today.

Don’t you fear the people could vote in one of the oligarchs, for example, Lembergs or Slesers?

I believe, the people are much smarter than that.

What changes would you like to see in the Latvian legislation?

The Constitution needs fundamental changes, including a people-elected president. The next Saeima should approve a Convention, similar to a Constituent Assembly, and work on reforms to the Constitution so that it can stabilise the political environment in Latvia. The Saeima being dismissed is also a parliamentarian crisis. The old government should be overthrown only when there is a possibility to appoint a new one.

Another possibility is giving away with the parliamentary immunity. It is enough with these privileges. Who needs that? Some deputies with criminal pasts? Constitutional changes is not a matter a half a year, it is rather for the next three years, as the Constitution is outdated and calls for fundamental reforms.

What is your vision about Latvia in five years? What is going to change during the next Saeima?

The next three years should set an aim of Latvia ranking among the top 5 European Union countries, due to its well-arranged educational system with its graduates being able to develop both Latvian science, the next generation and also business.


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