• 2009-05-07


In his puppy dog eagerness to please the Latvian public, President Valdis Zatlers has unfortunately shown some of the short-sightedness that is endemic of politicians in the country and has led to the dire financial straights now faced.

By pushing for constitutional amendments that will make Latvia the only country in Europe where the electorate has the power to dissolve Parliament by popular vote, he may have opened a proverbial Pandora's Box that will not easily be closed again.
The amendments have been pushed through to provide a check to an immediate, short term problem. The problem is that the current government 's or, to be more accurate, the previous few governments 's have had an extraordinarily low approval rating because of their consistently placing personal gain over the good of the state.

Latvia will be stuck with these amendments for a long time, if not forever. They will not change the face of Latvian politics, they will just raise the stakes (and the price tags) of the political games that are par for the course.
The Latvian public has every right to be upset with the leadership of the country and to want the ability to take more control of who runs the country into their own hands. Sadly, Latvian politicians are simply not mature enough to treat the amendments with the reverence and respect that they deserve.

While the public may have enough common sense to know when a government should step down, policy makers from the full spectrum of Latvian politics 's which ranges from moderate right to only slightly right-of-center 's will ultimately be the ones to organize the referendums.
The problem is clear. Throughout the past decade, the main tool of whichever party happens to be in the opposition has been to denounce the ruling coalition and call for the leadership to step down. Rarely have there been any constructive proposals put forward by opposition parties, which seem content to bitch and moan about their competitors until it is their turn to take office again.

The real problem, as has been widely discussed by analysts and by the president himself, is that there is a lack of "new faces" in political affairs. The same politicians are regurgitated year after year, election cycle after election cycle.

Thinking up new, easier ways for those in power to lose their positions will not really meaningfully improve the way the country is run. History has shown that the people who are there to replace those in power will be the same old cronies that have been alternatively working their nefarious ways on the country since it regained independence. Until there is a viable alternative to the current body politic, this will only raise the stakes of their dangerous game.

In the long term, these amendments will only exacerbate the problem. In line with how opposition parties have acted in the past, they will push for referendums on a regular basis knowing full well that the referendums are doomed to failure. These votes do not come cheap, and Latvia needs all the santims it can get if it is ever to improve the economy such that it matches with the rest of the EU.

One can only hope the body politic will be able to grow up and start taking their job more seriously before the constant bickering in the country becomes a quagmire that costs the Latvian people even more time and money.