• 2009-02-25
Many in Latvia are now celebrating the resignation of Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, and with good reason. His most recent reign has seen an economic crash of an unprecedented scale since regaining independence, and a large portion of the population is now feeling disillusioned and generally hung out to dry by a government that it seems never had their best interests at heart.

But could anyone else have done a better job? Will his replacement, whoever the president may choose, really have the will follow through with much needed political change?
Unfortunately for the people of Latvia, the answer to both of these questions is almost certainly a resounding 'no.'

The economic crash was not brought about at the beginning of the Godmanis administration. It has been brewing for a long time. Perhaps the previous government 's led by Aigars Kalvitis, and in which Godmanis held the position of Interior Minister 's could have stymied some of the effects by taking the advice of its economic advisors.

Instead, that government chose to throw all consequences into the wind and let the good times roll. By the time Godmanis took the prime minister's seat, even the most skilled economist could not have prevented a recession.

With a world economic crisis compounding Latvia's own domestic troubles, the incoming government 's much like the outgoing one 's will have few tools left to use to try to get things back on track. The only thing left to do is to keep making unpopular budget cuts and pray that things start to turn around soon.
As to whether the new head of government will have the will and the means to follow through with political reform, the very candidates chosen speak for themselves.

The two leading candidates for the post 's the People's Party's Edgars Zalans, currently minister of regional affairs, and New Era's Valdis Dombrovskis 's were both short-listed to take the position last time around. And both were deemed unworthy last time around.
The fact that the leading political parties have chosen to again nominate these same two candidates shows that nobody has been listening to the numerous calls from the president and leading non-governmental figures for new faces.

They all said they agreed with the need for new politicians at the time. But when push comes to shove, the parties decide to nominate the exact same faces they put up last time around.
Even before these candidates step into office, it seems clear that neither will be able to work for the good of the country. They are both symbols of the unwillingness of the body politic to change its ways in the face of an increasingly disappointed public.

Zalans seems to already have forgotten that just over a year ago he was criticized so heavily for his lack of experience, for openly expressing distrust toward the media and for taking leadership courses at a seminar of questionable repute, that his appointment to the post became almost unthinkable. It remains to be seen whether he has learned so much in the past year that he is ready to take the reins during one of the most difficult economic times the country has ever faced.

While we might have come to expect this sort of thing from the People's Party, New Era's choice to again put Dombrovskis forward is equally disappointing. Regurgitating old candidates after calling for a change in the way politics works is exactly the sort of thing the party had attacked the outgoing ruling coalition for.
What Latvia really needs in this time of crisis are candidates who are willing to work for the good of the country. Godmanis' time in office may have brought economic ruin, but at least he made some token efforts to put the interests of the state over those of his party. It's unlikely we'll be able to say as much about whoever takes his place.