• 2004-11-01
Another government has fallen. After coalition member the People's Party voted against the 2005 budget on Oct. 28, the Baltic state is preparing for its 11th government in as many years. But why did it happen? Few have an answer. Even the People's Party appears confused in public. Was it fiscal spending out of control, a desire for more power or an attempted fix for falling approval ratings? The truth is, we are unlikely to know. The fate of the government was probably decided in a back-room deal, to which the majority of Latvia's population will never be privy.

Perhaps the fall of the unpopular minority government, which continually relied on left-wing support to pass legislation, will lead to a better, more stable government. One can only hope that a reformist agenda will return, and that ever-elusive stability can be found. Maybe then, the government can efficiently deal with the long-term social difficulties the country faces.

To be sure this government did its utmost to anger voters. They removed the popular Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete and replaced her with Ingrida Udre at the European Commission - a decision they have since been forced to change, damaging Latvia's reputation in the process. Prime Minister Indulis Emsis amazingly claimed that he lacked the power to remove Udre, despite the mounting political pressure to do so. What Latvia has done is show the EU that its institutions are simply prizes to be used in domestic politics. Such actions by a new-member state make demands for a commissioner look foolish for all EU members.

The very professional and competent Andris Piebalgs will hopefully begin to repair Latvia's tarnished image in Europe.

This government also removed the intelligent and energetic former head of the anti-corruption bureau Juta Strike, replacing her with Aleksejs Loskutovs. Under the latter's leadership, many investigations have either ground to a halt or suffered humiliating defeats in the court system, all the while remaining conspicuously absent from the public sphere. Furthermore, Loskutovs only public pronouncement has been a faint cry to catch "the big fish" of corruption.

There are inherent flaws with Latvian politics that make a continuation of the rapid rise and fall of governments likely. One persistent problem plaguing Parliament politics has been the near or total lack of real political parties, such as those that exist in the West. Parties often revolve around a local personality or so called "locomotive," since they lack a long and storied history to look back on.

Those parties that do disintegrate, often times re-emerge with a new name, as well as many of the same politicians and financial backers. Ainars Slesers, for example, is already on his third political entity with Latvia's First Party. Yet this may also crumble if poll numbers hold up by the next election.

It is no small wonder then that the longest government to serve in Latvia since independence only lasted for two years. And it is no surprise that an organization of former prime ministers is significantly bigger than one might imagine. Alas, its membership will probably just keep growing.