RIGA - A new public organization called Par labu Latviju! (For A Good Latvia!) was established on March 29. It is made up of businessmen and several city and town mayors, members of the People’s Party and Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way, reports news agency LETA. The so-called manifesto, which will give the group its guidance, has not yet been signed by LPP/LC Chairman Ainars Slesers and the People’s Party Chairman Andris Skele.
The organization will strive to unite society to work for loftier goals and ideals and in the interest of Latvia. Those who have signed the manifesto include Gunars Kirsons, Ieva Plaude, Atis Sausnitis, Ivars Strautins, as well as mayors of Jekabpils, Daugavpils, Kuldiga, Ogre and Cesis Mayor Gints Skenders (People’s Party).
The manifesto, called ‘For a Prosperous Latvia,’ will call for a prosperous Latvia, among other aims. Skele believes that the group wants more rationally-organized state administration. Kirsons declared “We are surrounded by negative information all the time. It is time to stop saying bad things about one another, and to stress the positive and bring everyone together to finally begin working.”
He added that it is understood that not only LPP/LC and the People’s Party are being invited to join his movement, but also any other party is invited.
Mayor of Ogre Edvins Bartkevics, (the party For Ogre Region) was not able to say, however, whether his signing the document would indicate a readiness to join a political union for the forthcoming elections. First of all, a program had to be created, as signing the manifesto was only an indication of belief that something should be done.
Skele, on the campaign trail for this fall’s upcoming elections, said that businesspeople are the source of the energy and enthusiasm through which the state can break free of debt; therefore, the People’s Party will lobby for their interests. He also indicated that the People’s Party is seriously considering the possibility of standing in the next Saeima elections as part of a new political alliance, and does not rule out that this could be in cooperation with businesspeople, though this doesn’t yet officially include For a Good Latvia.
“The important thing is to ensure that businesspeople’s doubts over the positive development of the country are reduced, and that they have their own political lobby. Business-people are hungry not only for a professional, but also for a political lobby. They are persistently ignored in Latvia,” complained Skele.
The People’s Party chairman believes that the Latvian Employers Confederation, the Latvian Chamber of Trade and Industry, and other industry associations do not truly represent companies’ interests, as they also have orders from the government. Public funds are assigned to them for carrying out specific projects. Skele believes that these organizations would not stand against anyone who could have an affect on how the public funds are allocated.
“Such organizations cannot be said to be independent, [but are] closely linked to those in power,” said the People’s Party leader.
Skele revealed that the People’s Party’s links with businesspeople were very significant, as this was the party that they turned to most often. Therefore, the party chairman meets with business leaders both in Riga, and in other regions.
The criticism levied against Skele is that he maintains his own business interests while still in government, and has refused to set aside personal involvement in his companies, despite the clear conflict of interest.
Additionally, the People’s Party’s hold on power in the provinces over any business activity is so strong, some say, that local businesspeople have no other choice than to ‘turn to them,’ otherwise “nothing gets done,” providing another obstacle to Latvia’s economic entrepreneurship and economic development.