Latvia 2011 A time for political change?

The President Latvia gives a historical landmark speech.

Yesterday the president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers addressed the nation and came out with radical decision to propose vote for new parliament. He used point 48. of Latvian constitution that allows president to force referendum to depose the current Parliament (Saeima). Parliament still functions until referendum and emergency elections, however it can hold sessions only if president calls them and they are lead strictly by president. The referendum for deposing of parliament does not need any quorum, if only 3 people in whole country vote yes the parliament is deposed. However there is certain twist in it- this radical decision  was made only few days before presidential elections. The president is elected by parliament. That means that parliament that has lost the faith in eyes of the president must elect him. While juridically its favorable it’s the question of morale. Another twist is what if Zatlers is not elected. The constitution says that if people vote no presidential decision  than he must resign. This makes question what would the new president will have to do in this situation. It’s also important that the president that made this decision must be the main arbiter of the situation, if so who has the constitutional rights to lead the state in the time of political change? It’s clear that this radical step was hard decision for Zatlers and great risk for all nation.

What are the legitimate reason for this step? First since 9th Parliament a political split between society and parliament had grow larger and deeper. Only 6% of people trusted the previous parliament, nothing has changed now the current parliament is trusted by 10% of people. That is a quite a small growth. Second reason is the continuing influence of business tycoon interests in government.  There are three main players labeled as oligarchs Aivars Lembergs, Andris Skele and Ainars Slesers. In last elections the last two lost the political capital and lost the great deal of influence. But Aivars Lembergs- the major of town of Ventspils and owner many oil and sea transit companies won the great deal. His party- The Green Farmers Union won enough seats to join any variant of coalition. This means that fate of coalition lead by liberal party Union leader Valdis Dombrovskis was in hands of one man. His influence has paralyzed the coalition, but Unity has not gone far from the three of corruption either.  The constant practice of appointing Unity party members in state services and commissions has angered the nation. Unity proposed themselves as the crusaders against corruption but now its seams the have betrayed their ideals in sake of power balance.

President Zatlers had many chances and reasons to do this. In January 2009. when Riga erupted in violent riots Zatlers gave an ultimatum to parliament to make changes in their policy if not he will depose the parliament. Parliament managed to fulfill his demands but many believed that Zatlers missed a chance to do that step then. A trigger that caused Zatlers decision was a sudden crackdown by Latvian anti-corruption service on three main oligarchs. The investigators wanted to make a search in-house of Ainars Slesers that happens to be deputy of parliament. The laws require the parliament to vote to allow to make such steps against the member of the parliament. And the majority of parliament voted either no or abstained. This was a clear blow against lawfulness of the state, that makes the deputy in higher position than simple citizen. Another reason for Zatlers action was a high chance of betrayal against his chance to be re-elected. Only Unity and National Union promised to vote for him. The Green Farmers and Harmony Center was the main opponents of his re-election. And Green Farmers proposed a another candidate Andris Berzins. 

What will happen next? The next important event is possible presidential election next Thursday. If it will happen will the parliament will vote yes for the person who has deposed it? By the political logic they must elect Zatlers to fulfill the constitution to avert constitutional crisis. But if they vote no then the future sequence of events is not clear.  The referendum against the parliament probably will be positive judging by large praise of the nation. Large crowd went to presidential palace in the night to great Zatlers.

But the important question lays in the new elections. Will the populace vote to punish all oligarch parties once and for all? Will the National Union use this situation to get bigger support? Would Harmony Center triumph in elections? Or nothing will change. It lies on the hands of the people, if they want to make a revolution and campaign against old policy or let things as they were. It is a question of will of Latvian nation to change and survive in this changing world.


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