Latvija in brief - 2011-03-31

  • 2011-03-30

Harmony Center is the most popular political party in Latvia this month with a rating of 20.2 percent, according to a public opinion survey carried out by Latvijas fakti, reports LETA. The rating for Harmony Center increased from 18 percent in February.  In March, voter support decreased for the ruling coalition’s Unity, with 17.6 percent of respondents saying that they would vote for Unity. Its rating this past January was 19.4 percent. 13.1 percent said they would vote for Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS). Support for All For Latvia! - For Fatherland And Freedom/LNNK slightly decreased, to 5.6 percent. 1.5 percent said they would vote for the People’s Party and 0.8 percent for Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way. Latvijas fakti Director Aigars Freimanis explains that Harmony Center’s popularity has increased because of the March 16 events, which gained wide publicity in the Russian-speaking media. Unity’s influence in the government has decreased and so did its popularity.

Approximately 500 people gathered by the Occupation Museum in Riga on March 25 for a procession to the Freedom Monument to commemorate the Soviet mass deportations of March 25, 1949, reports LETA. Many of the participants were senior citizens, however, there were also many younger persons participating in the event. The participants carried flowers to lay at the base of the Freedom Monument, with others carrying the Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian flags. Some participants held posters calling for a second Nuremburg Tribunal, this time to prosecute those who assisted in the genocide committed by Communist regimes. Participating in the ceremony was Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Unity), Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ojars Kalnins (Unity), Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina (Unity), Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony Center), Finance Minister Andris Vilks (Unity) and other Latvian politicians. From March 25 to March 29, 1949, over 43,000 innocent people were deported to Siberia.

The number of needy residents in Riga last year increased 53 percent, and the social budget grew 44 percent, reports LETA. Spending on social benefits reached 17.9 million lats (25.5 million euros), according to the Riga City Council Welfare Department. 71,951 people received social benefits in 2010. The number of people with low-income increased six percent per month. 28,899 needy residents were registered in 2009, while 44,275 were registered in 2010. Guaranteed minimum income and apartment allowances reached 13.5 million lats. Due to the increased number of people with low income, Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony Center) previously admitted that Riga City Council will most likely have to seek an additional 2 million lats in funding for social benefits. Usakovs was concerned that the social budget will run out of funds already in May. In that case the municipality will have to come up with an additional 1 million lats, so that residents of Riga would be able to receive their benefits.