New group wants better government

  • 2010-04-07
  • By Gunta Kursisa

WHAT’S THE PLAN?: Professor Juris Rozenvalds believes the Meierovics group has yet to clearly define their purpose and goals.

RIGA - “Our greatest aim would be to gain, among those 100 people, the deputies in the parliament, such that everyone is really dedicated to the State, works in society’s interests, with no corruption among the deputies,” says Talis Tisenkopfs, head of the sociology department at the University of Latvia and board member of the newly-established group, the non-political ‘Meierovics Society for progressive change.’ The new organization feels that it is not necessary that seats in the parliament are filled by those in the ‘Unity’ party, but rather that the political culture changes in Latvia in general.

On March 25, the founding of the ‘Meierovics Society for progressive change’ was announced. Members of the board are Sarmite Elerte, former editor-in-chief of daily Diena and president of the National Culture council, Talis Tisenkopfs, Lolita Cigane, leader of organization ‘Delna. Transparency International Latvia,’ Ojars Kalnins, president of the Latvian Institute, Janis Garancs, multimedia artist and researcher, and Martins Vecvanags, board chairman of the Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. There are 27 founders of the society in all. They are all considered to be strong figures in their fields.
The ‘Meierovics Society’ is not a political party. The political party Civic Union’s announcement says that members of ‘Meierovics Society’ might be candidates in the 10th Saeima elections under the political party ‘Unity.’ The society will exist after the elections as well, says official information in the society’s Web page.

“The establishment of the ‘Meierovics Society’ is essential, because elections to the 10th Saeima (parliament) are coming soon, in October. It is necessary to involve society in the election process,” says Cigane. “This year civil society should make a crucial decision. Estimable personalities are showing, by example, their participation in political decision- making,” says Tisenkopfs. He says the society’s main principles are based on the prevalent feeling and atmosphere in society, the need for political improvement and a ‘refreshing.’ “Current politics is stagnating and corrupted,” says Tisenkopfs.
“The direct aims of the ‘Meierovics society’ are to engage the Latvian public and to show that not only the politicians are making the political policies,” says Cigane.

Tisenkopfs says that the ‘Meierovic Society’ should define its central values and direction of activity. “The ‘Meierovics Society’ contains specialists from different fields, and each brings their own vision and knowledge about their field. This makes our community richer,” says Cigane.

Juris Rozenvalds, professor at the University of Latvia and a political science expert, says that all members of the ‘Meierovics Society’ are persons of high stature, but still “it is not very clear what this society wants to gain.” Rozenvalds’ criticism is that clear formulation for what society understands as ‘progressive politics’ remains far from what the group has officially announced - to engage Latvian society in politics and to popularize civil society’s demand for responsible State management.

Rozenvalds says that progressive politics can differ from left, right or nationalist, or other politics, but this is not defined in ‘Meierovics Society’s’ aims. “The Society stands for publicity and a well informed public, and against corruption. These are very high and honorable ideals, but I think this organization misses the particular plan and suggestions,” he says. “For now, their proposition is not clear; that is why it is hard to form a reasonable opinion on it,” says the expert.
However, ‘Meierovics Society’s’ potential for success in achieving its goals has attracted tremendous media interest. “The interest from society is the basis for spreading ideas,” says sociologist Arnis Kaktins in an interview with news agency LETA. The expert says that a disadvantage of democracy in Latvia is that society members do not fully avail themselves of the freedom of setting up such associations. “This is an appreciation that non-governmental organizations have a relationship with the political arena,” he says.

Tisenkopfs says that the success of this organization will not be tangible, but will be rather in the quality of politics. “We want to encourage society’s consciousness for making responsible and well considered decisions in the elections,” he says. 

The establishment of the ‘Meierovic Society’ is linked to the recently formed political party ‘Unity.’ ‘Unity’ gathers people from three parties: ‘New Age,’ ‘Civic Union,’ and ‘Society for different Politics’ with an aim to “open politics, where society members take part in decision-making.”

The ‘Meierovics Society’ is a continuation of the so-called “umbrella revolution” from the autumn of 2007, reports information in the group’s official Web page. In autumn 2007, thousands of people gathered in front of parliament chanting different slogans, the most vocal of them were to “fire the parliament” and “for a judicial state and fair politics.”
Zigfrids Anna Meierovics, whose name the society has taken, was Latvia’s first foreign minister, at the beginning of the 20th century. He took part in the Versailles Peace conference as a second leader with the Latvian delegation. Meierovics was a very influential figure in politics in Latvia’s first Republic. He was considered to be an excellent diplomat and helped gain Latvia’s recognition, ‘de jure,’ from other European countries in 1921.