RIGA - Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs' return to lead the Union of Greens and Farmers' (ZZS) charge in the run for the prime minister's office in next year's Saeima elections shows that Latvian society is to a large extent indifferent towards a politician's reputation, shows a recent poll of political analysts, reports news agency LETA. Lembergs has been charged with serious criminal offenses, though remains in the mayor's office in the seaside town of Ventspils.
Political scientist and University of Latvia Social Sciences Department Dean Juris Rozenvalds comments that "It has become a tradition in Latvian politics for voters to show indignation over the politicians' dishonesty and, at the same time, still cast their votes for the very same candidates they publicly criticized."
He says that "Observing such an attitude [among the voters], parties then try to speculate through some politicians' undeniable management skills and leave their reputation in the background, because neither the politicians themselves, nor the voters find the reputation [to be] important."
Rozenvalds added that the very same principle could be observed when the People's Party announced it would nominate Andris Skele for prime minister. "Therefore, the question remains: what is best, the efficient cheat or the inefficient honest politician," he asks. For now, Rozenvalds refrains from forecasting as to how Lembergs' candidacy would influence ZZS's chances in the next Saeima elections. He admits that in general, ZZS is dependent on Lembergs' popularity, and Lembergs needs ZZS's political support, thus, their cooperation is mutually beneficial.
Political analyst Ivars Ijabs believes that ZZS's decision to pick Lembergs as their candidate was an obvious choice, that this could have been predicted right after the People's Party announced it would nominate Skele.
In Ijabs' opinion, the fact that Lembergs will run as a candidate for the prime minister's office shows not only the low law-abiding standards among the politicians, but also of the populace itself. Ijabs underlines that undeniably, Lembergs is among the most popular politicians in Latvia, however, despite the wide array of Lembergs' political talents, voters who take an interest in retaining democratic rule in the country should pay attention to all the criminal charges brought against him.
At the same time, political experts doubt whether the mayor really has a chance of becoming prime minister. "No doubt he would drag along with him a number of people into the parliament, however, a certain number of politicians do have prejudices towards seeing a man accused of such crimes being elected to the prime minister's office," says Ijabs.