New, right-wing party begins to take shape

  • 2008-02-13
  • Staff and wire reports

MAKING IT COUNT: Kalniete's new political association, slated to soon become a party, will focus in part on increasing civic participation

RIGA - A highly anticipated right-wing party took the first major step toward becoming reality on Feb. 12 after its leaders formed a political association that will lay the foundations for the new political force.
Girts Valdis Kristovskis, a member of European Parliament, and MP Sandra Kalniete announced the formation of the "Democratic Patriot Association" 's so named since both politicians are currently independent after having left their parties.

The new association will strive to promote democracy and reduce voter apathy in the country, according to its founders. As previously reported, the two party founders envision building their support base at a regional level, outside of Riga, and avoiding the big business interests that surround the capital.
The new party hopes to draw support from the numerous politicians who recently left both For Fatherland and Freedom, a junior member of the ruling coalition, and the opposition New Era party.
In a Feb. 12 interview with the LETA news agency, Kalniete, who left New Era, said the new party has already drawn a significant amount of interest from throughout the country.

"This can already be confirmed by all the phone calls and letters received from respectable people all over Latvia the past few days," she said.
The new party will be competing for independent voters with a more left-leaning party now being formed by Aigars Stokenbergs, a former minister in two governments.
Kalniete said that in order to avoid reliance on big business, the party will draw its funds from small to medium-sized donations, a strategy that New Era adopted successfully.
"We hope to involve all party members in attracting funds and hope for the responsiveness of small and medium size donors," she said.

Three prominent former members of New Era 's all of whom are Saeima (Latvia's parliament) members, have already said that they are prepared to join the party 's Karlis Sadurskis, Ina Druviete and Ilma Cepane.
When The Baltic Times went to press, there was as of yet no word from the former ruling coalition members on joining the new party, but Kristovskis, who left the right-wing For Fatherland and Freedom party on Feb. 11, expressed hopes that they would be willing to participate. On the same day, lawmakers Anna Seile and Gunars Laicens, party's board member Janina Kursite and MEP Guntars Krasts also officially quit the party.
For Fatherland and Freedom has seen about 40 members leave the party in recent weeks. The newly independent politicians cited concerns that the upper echelons of the party failed to communicate and consult with party members in their decisions as the primary reason for their leaving.

Despite leaving the party, the For Fatherland and Freedom lawmakers pledged continued support for the Ivars Godmanis led government. And though they have also voiced support for Kristovskis, the former party members have not yet agreed to join the new party.
The exodus has left For Fatherland and Freedom with only five members in parliament, the bare minimum allowed for a parliamentary group.
The daily Diena reported on Feb. 12 that Roberts Zile, party chief and MEP, regretted the decision of his former party members to leave. He said Latvia should look to West European countries for guidance, where parties are consolidating rather than splintering.

President Valdis Zatlers said he thought the recent rearrangement of political affiliations shows that democracy is strong.
"This again proves that Latvia is a democratic country, as citizens create civic groups and parties," the president told after a Feb. 7 meeting with the prime minister.
Zatlers also said, however, that parties should only be created if they have a concrete ideology and something substantial to offer. Both Zatlers and much-loved former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga have said they do not plan on getting involved in the recent flurry of party politics.
Former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis was more cynical. He told LNT television on Feb. 11 that the recent shifting in political allegiances was motivated by selfish reasons, and that the moves did not surprise him at all.
"The door is open. Politicians are looking for new boats," he said.

Kalvitis accused the newly independent politicians of trying to cover up their unproductive terms by switching to new parties. The former head of government said they are only leaving their parties to improve their chances of getting re-elected.